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Old English Customs 




THE FAVERSHAM MOOT HORN. 

This horn served for the calling of local assemblies at Faversham, Kent, 
circa 1300. 



Old Snglish Customs 

Sxtant at the Present Time 

An Account of 

Local Observances^ Festival Customs^ and 

(Ancient Ceremonies yet Surviving 

in Great Britain 

By 

T. H. T)itchfield, 3U.A., F.S.A. 




London 

c K 
1896 



\v 



PREFACE 

I HE object of this work is to describe all 
the old customs which still linger on in the 
obscure nooks and corners of our native land, 
or which have survived the march of progress 
in our busy city's life. There are many books 
which treat of ancient customs, and repeat 
again the stories told by Brand, Hone, and 
other historians and antiquaries ; but, as far 
as we are aware, there is no book describing 
the actual folk-customs yet extant, which 
may be witnessed to-day by the folk-lorist 
and lover of rural manners. We have 
endeavoured to supply this want, and to 
record only those customs which time has 
spared. Undoubtedly the decay has been 
rapid. Many customs have vanished, quietly 
dying out without giving a sign. The 
present generation has witnessed the extinc- 
tion of many observances which our fathers 

practised and revered, and doubtless the 
v 

286064 



Preface 

progress of decay will continue. We have 
entered upon a diminished inheritance. Still 
it is surprising to find how much has been 
left ; how tenaciously the English race clings 
to that which habit and usage have estab- 
lished ; how ancient customs hold sway in 
the palace, the parliament, the army, the law 
courts, amongst educated people as well as 
unlearned rustics ; how they cluster around 
our social institutions, are enshrined in reli- 
gious ceremonial, and are preserved by law ; 
how carefully they have been guarded through 
the many ages of their existence, and how 
deeply rooted they are in the affections of 
the English people. It is really remark- 
able that at the present day, in spite of 
ages of education and social enlightenment, 
in spite of centuries of Christian teach- 
ing and practice, we have now amongst 
us many customs which owe their origin to 
pagan beliefs and the superstitions of our 
heathen forefathers, and have no other raison 
d'etre for their existence than the wild 
legends of Scandinavian mythology. 

I desire to express my thanks to more than 
vi 



Preface 

sixty correspondents in different parts of 
the country for the kind aid they have 
given me in collecting information for this 
work. It has often been difficult to deter- 
mine whether during recent years particular 
customs have become defunct, and the only 
method of acquiring trustworthy informa- 
tion has been to communicate with local 
authorities. I have been fortunate in find- 
ing able writers, folk-lorists, and antiquaries 
in all parts of England, who have kindly 
written to me concerning the customs in 
their localities, and furnished me with most 
valuable information. I gratefully preserve 
their names : 

Dr. Williamson, Surrey. 
Miss Banfield, Cornwall. 
Rev. H. Kingsford, Worcester. 
V. G. Hewett, Esq., Kent. 
S. Andrew, Esq., Lancashire. 
Rev. G. B. Brooks, Bucks. 
C. J. Billson, Esq., Leicester. 
Rev. Dr. Lee, Bucks. 
Rev. W. Norman, Bedford. 
R. M. Dawkins, Esq., Devon. 
Mrs. Musters, Notts. 
W. M. Brookes, Esq., Yorks. 
vii 



Preface 



Rev. E. H. Goddard, Wilts. 
Rev. J. B. Jones, Cornwall. 
Rev. W. Poole, Hereford. 
Rev. A. J. Edwards, Beds. 
R. P. L. Booker, Esq., Eton College, 
Professor Rhys, Oxford. 
Rev. E. Atkinson, Cambridge. 
Rev. W. H. Sewell, Suffolk. 
Rev. H. F. Howard, Berks. 
T. M. Fallow, Esq., Yorks. 
Rev. J. Moreton, Cornwall. 
J. BagnalJ, Esq., Stafford. 
Rev. E. Bradley, Lichfield. 
W. H. Evans, Esq., Berks. 
Capt. Dickinson (Army). 
Major R. Holden (Army). 
G. F. Alldritt, Esq., Surrey 
Commander Edye. 
Capt. Anson, R.N. 
Rev. C. P. Winter, Wales. 
Rev. W. C. Box, Northants. 
Miss Righton, Kent. 
Rev. Canon Beach (Army). 
Miss Cornwall, Gloucester. 
Rev. H. J. Carter, Cambridge. 
W. Cudworth, Esq., Yorks. 
Rev. C. V. Goddard, Dorset. 
Lady Read, Wales. 
P. Manning, Esq., Oxford. 
Sir George Birdwood. 
Rev. W. G. Rutherford, Westminster. 
Mrs. L. Simonds, Hants, 
viii 



Preface 



E. Armstrong, Esq., Oxford. 

Rev. Augustin Ley, Hereford. 

Rev. A. J. M'Caul, London. 

Rev. J. H. Fleming, Norfolk. 

Rev. E. C. Bond, Devon. 

Rev. J. L. Francis, Devon. 

W. Norbury, Esq., Cheshire. 

Rev. W. H. Lyon, Dorset. 

Rev. C. Farrow, Yorks. 

Rev. E. A. Chichester, Surrey. 

Rev. G. Parr, Middlesex. 

Rev. W. H. Connor, Northumberland. 

Rev. G. B. Vaux, Kent. 

Rev. A. W. Headlam, Durham. 

G. E. Dartnell, Esq., Wilts. 

J. W. Bradley, Stafford. 

Mrs. Ogle, Cheshire. 

Rev. J. B. Robins, Oxford. 

I am of course indebted to Notes and 
Queries > which has for so many years devoted 
much of its space to the preserving of the 
records of ancient customs. The labours of 
the Folk-Lore Society are well known, and 
their publications have been very useful to 
me in the progress of this work. Finally, I 
have to express my thanks to Mrs. Gomme, 
who, in conjunction with her husband, the 

first President of the Folk-Lore Society, has 
ix 



Preface 

done so much for the study of the science 
of Folk-lore, and who has most kindly 
assisted me in revising the proof-sheets of 
this work. For the loan of the illustration 
of the Faversham Moot Horn I am in- 
debted to the editor and publisher of Mr. 
LI. Jewitt's book on Corporation Plate. 



P. H. D1TCHFIELD. 



BARKHAM RECTORY, 

Midsummer -day 1896. 



CONTENTS 



INTRODUCTION 

PAGES 

The decay of old customs Causes of their decline 
Numerous survivals Not confined to the country 
Pagan origin Importance of their preservation The 
calendar 1-7 

CHAPTER I 

Christmas customs Mumming Folk-drama in Devon, 
Yorks, &c. "Vessel boxes" Carol-singing Fur- 
mety at Christmas Mistletoe and kissing-bush Plum- 
pudding Christmas-tree Bell customs at Dewsbury, 
&c. Boar's-head at Oxford Barring out in Cumber- 
land Mumping and goodening on St. Thomas' Day 
Hoodening "Picrous day" Burghead custom St. 
Stephen's Day and stoning the wren Yule Doos and 
local cakes Boxing-Day Pantomimes Christmas- 
cards 8-36 

CHAPTER II 

New Year's Day and first-footing Banffshire custom 
Wassail bowls New Year's gifts and good wishes 
Midnight services Queen's College, Oxford Yorks 
custom Local rhymes and wassailers Quaaltagh in 
Isle of Man Twelfth Night or Epiphany Plough 
Monday Wassailing orchards Court custom 
Hakey Hood Watching animals St. Paul's Day 
Valentine's Day Islip valentine Customs in Berks 
and Essex Hurling at St. Ives . . . 37~58 

xi 



Contents 

CHAPTER III 

PAGES 

Lenten customs Shrove Tuesday Pancake-bell Shrov- 
ing Tossing pancakes at Westminster Devonshire 
rhymes Welsh survival of thrashing the hen 
Coquilles at Norwich Football on Shrove Tuesday 
Mothering Sunday Simnels Care Sunday Palm 
Sunday and ball-play Fig Sunday Spy Wednesday 
Maundy Thursday Good Friday and hot cross buns 
Skipping on Good Friday and marbles Guildford 
custom Custom at St. Bartholomew's Church, Lon- 
don Blue-Coat School custom ^Flogging Judas 
Cornish custom of gathering shellfish St. David's 
Day 5^-77 

CHAPTER IV 

Easter customs Pace-eggs Clapping for eggs in Wales 
Pace-egg play Biddenden custom Kentish pudding- 
pies Hallaton hare-pie and bottle kicking School 
customs St. Mark's Day and ghosts Custom at St. 
Mary's, Woolnoth Hocktide at Hungerford All 
Fools' Day 78-94 

CHAPTER V 

May Day customs Magdalen College, Oxford Sweep 
at Oxford and Cheltenham Bamptom customs 
Charlton, Clifton, and Witney, Oxon Edlesborough, 
Bucks Minehead and Hawick customs Saltash, 
Cornwall Lancashire, Leicestershire, Cornwall, 
Gloucestershire, Northants customs Old Maypole 
still standing Gawthorpe, Yorks St. Mary, Cray 95-110 

CHAPTER VI 

Helston Furry dance Rogation-tide and Ganging Week 
Beating the bounds at Malborough, Lichfield, 
Oxford, Leicester, and London Royal Oak Day 
Wilts custom Selkirk Common - Riding 
"Grovely" Singing custom at Durham . . ui-122 

xii 



Contents 



CHAPTER VII 

PACKS 

Club feasts at Whitsuntide Bampton, Oxon Morris- 
dancers Irish ' ' death ride " Wakes in Lancashire 
and Yorks Rush-bearing at Oldham, Ambleside, 
Grasmere Hay strewing at Braunston, Leicester 
Horn dance at Abbot Bromley " Flower Sermon " 
Cornish " feasten " Sunday .... 123-140 



CHAPTER VIII 

Midsummer Eve customs, Pontypridd, Wales Cornish 
customs Bale-fires Ratby meadow-mowing Reeve 
houses at Desford Harvest customs Mell-sheaf and 
Kern-supper Kern-baby The "maiden" Cailleach 
Devonshire " Knack " " Dumping " Harvest- 
bell Horn-blowing in Hertfordshire Harvest-songs 
Sheep-shearing in Dorset Michaelmas goose 
Biddenham rabbit St. Crispin's Day and the shoe- 
makers 141-159 



CHAPTER IX 

The Fifth of November Berks songs Beckley and Hed- 
dington, Oxon Town and Gown at Oxford Harcake 
or Tharcake, Lancashire Local cakes St. Clement's 
Day "Souling"on All Soul's Day Allan apples 
at Penzance Butchers' custom . . . 160-172 



CHAPTER X 

Local customs Gloves in Church of Abbots Ann, Andover 
Dunmow Flitch Skimmerton-riding in Wilts and 
Dorset Riding the Stang .... 173-181 

xiii 



Contents 

CHAPTER XI 

FACES 

Holy Wells Scottish superstition Pin-wells Rag-wells 
Well-dressing in Derbyshire Tissington well-dress- 
ing Endon, Staffordshire Youlgrave, Derbyshire 
St. Alkmund's, Derby Wishing-wells Walsing- 
ham, Norfolk 182-189 

CHAPTER XII 

Marriage customs Orange blossoms Rice-throwing 
Wedding-ring Bride's veil Shoe-throwing Custom 
at Stoke Courcy Knutsford custom Chopped straw 
at weddings Spur-peal Holderness customs Kiss- 
ing in Somerset Yorkshire Dale customs Races for 
ribbons Courting customs Taking Day at Crowan 
Cornish miners' custom Shooting the bride The Sin- 
eater Funeral customs Passing bell Yorks funeral 
biscuits Corpse roads Crape on beehives Telling 
the bees Burying cheeses Wheat at funerals 190-205 

CHAPTER XIII 

Legal customs Clameur de Haro Tynwald Hill and 
Manx laws Court of pie-powder Court-leets and 
Court-barons Court of Exchequer Borough-English 
Gavelkind Court Leet at Dunchurch Heriots 
Judge's black cap Gray's Inn Curious custom at 
Royal Courts of Justice 206-219 

CHAPTER XIV 

Civic customs Lord Mayor's show Former splendour of 
civic processions Livery Companies of London 
Civic banquets Loving-cup Election of Master of 
Girdlers' Company Skinners' Company Vintners' 
Company Swan-upping and the Dyers' Company 
The salt-cellar of the Innholders' Company Silver 
cradle Colchester oyster feast Huntingdon and the 
ox's skull Preston Guild York and Mayoress' chain 

Freemasons 220-231 

XIV 



Contents 
CHAPTER xv 



PACES 



Bell-ringing customs Dewsbury Pancake-bell Bells as 
guides Pudding-bell Harvest-bell Gleaning-bell 
Curfew Passing-bell Eight-hours' bell at Ged- 
dington, &c. Calling servants at Fulham Palace 
Auction by candle at Aldermaston, Corby, Warton 
Market Drayton Coventry and Lady Godiva Pack 
Monday Fair Rockland Guild Mock Mayors- 
Statute fairs Gingerbread fairs Town-crier's call 
Relic of feudalism at Dalton-in-Furness Survival 
of old charm Colting at Appleby Brixham market 
custom Raffling for Bibles Witches' obelisk Gipsy 
custom Ploughing custom .... 232-255 

CHAPTER XVI 

Court customs Epiphany customs Maundy custom 

Coronation customs Royal births Royal funerals 256-266 

CHAPTER XVII 

Parliamentary customs Searching the House Introduc- 
ing new member Hat ceremony "Who goes 
home ? " Royal assent to Bills Ceremony of opening 
Parliament Installation of Speaker Introduction of 
new Peers in House of Lords Woolsack . 267-275 

CHAPTER XVIII 

Curious doles Plums at Christmas Dorsetshire custom 
Gloves for the parson Bread and cheese for all- 
Scrambling charity Figs and ale Pork and petticoats 
Old love-feasts Bull-baiting Poor seamen 
Lamps in London Washing Molly Grime Predilec- 
tion for colours Tombstone charity Prisoners at 
Newgate Redeeming English slaves Maid-servants 
Musical bequest " Lion sermon " Pax cake 
National events Dancing round John Knill's tomb 
Dole at Hospital of St. Cross at Winchester . 276-285 
XV 



Contents 



CHAPTER XIX 

PAGES 

Army customs Keys at the Tower Twelfth Lancers and 
hymn-tunesScotch traditions of the 1st regiment of 
foot Royal Welsh Fusiliers and St. David's Day 
Inkerman Day Royal Berks Scots Greys 7th 
Hussars 8th Hussars Regimental nicknames 1 4th 
Hussars Coldstream Guards The Buffs Northum- 
berland Fusiliers Suffolk Regiment Lancastrian 
Fusiliers Relics of American War Royal Canadians 
Cheshire regiment 7th Fusiliers Duke of Corn- 
wall's Light Infantry Black Watch . . 286-298 

CHAPTER XX 

Curious tenures Modern customs Conclusion . 299-308 

APPENDIX 

(i.) Words of Berkshire mumming plays . , . 309-314 

(2.) Mummers' play at Islip, Oxon .... 315-319 

(3.) Mummers' play at Bampton, Oxon . . . 319-326 

(4.) Melodies of the Morris-dancers at Bampton, Oxon 327-331 

(5.) The Boar's-head song at Queen's College, Oxford 332-333 



XVI 



Old English Customs 



INTRODUCTION 

The decay of old customs Causes of their de- 
cline Numerous survivals Not confined to the 
country Pagan origin Importance of their 
preservation The calendar. 

MANY writers have mourned over the 
decay of our ancient customs, which the 
restlessness of modern life has effectually 
killed. New manners are ever pushing out 
the old, and the lover of antiquity may 
perhaps be pardoned if he prefers the more 
ancient modes. The death of the old social 
customs, which added such diversity to the 
lives of our forefathers, has not tended to 
promote a reign of happiness and content- 
ment in our village communities, but rather 
to render rustic life one continuous round of 
labour unrelieved by pleasant pastime. 

The causes of the decline and fall of many 
old customs are not far to seek, Agri- 

A 



Otd;\Rnglish Customs 

cultural depression has killed many. The 
deserted farmsteads no longer echo with the 
sounds of rural revelry; the cheerful log- 
fires no longer glow in the farmer's kitchen ; 
the harvest-home song has died away, and 
" largess " no longer rewards the mummers 
and morice dancers. When poverty stands 
at the door, mirth and merriment are afraid 
to enter. Moreover, the labourer himself 
has changed ; he has lost his simplicity. 
His lot is far better than it was fifty years 
ago, and he no longer takes pleasure in the 
simple joys that delighted his ancestors in 
days of yore. Railways and cheap excursions 
have made him despise the old games and 
pastimes which once pleased his unenlightened 
soul. The old labourer has died, and his 
successor is a very " up-to-date " person, who 
reads the newspapers and has his ideas upon 
politics and social questions that would have 
startled his less cultivated sire. 

Again, the shriek of the engine has sounded 
the death-note of many once popular festivals. 
The railway-trains began to convey large 
crowds of noisy townsfolk to popular rural 
gatherings, and converted the simple rustic 
feasts into pandemoniums of vice and drunken 
revelry. Hence the authorities were forced 
to interfere, and to order the discontinuance 
of the festivals. Such has been the fate of 
such popular gatherings as the Langwarthby 



The Survival of Customs 

Rounds, which once delighted the hearts of 
the Cumberland folk. 

In consequence of these causes the decay 
of many old customs was inevitable. Never- 
theless they have not all died yet, and it is 
indeed surprising how many still linger on 
in the obscure corners of our native land, 
where railroads and modern culture have not 
yet penetrated. We will endeavour to record 
the customs that still remain, the survivals 
of old-world rural life. We will visit the 
quaint and quiet streets of rural towns and 
villages ; hear the rude rhymes of the 
mummers and " souling " children, and 
mark their fantastic dress and strange un- 
couth capers. Handed down from remote 
antiquity, these verses have been passed on 
from generation to generation and preserve 
the record of England's history writ in the 
memories of her children. Norse legends, 
that came to our shores with the fierce 
Vikings, Saxon superstitions, Roman customs, 
Norman manners, Pagan beliefs, pre-Reforma- 
tion practices, Tudor triumphs, great events 
in history, the memory of mighty chiefs and 
infamous conspirators, are all preserved in 
our existing customs which time has spared. 
Popular customs contain the germ of history ; 
and however rude and uncouth they may 
be, if we look beneath the surface we find 
curious and interesting stores of antiquarian 
3 



Old English Customs 

lore which well repay the labour of the ex- 
plorer. 

Nor are curious customs confined to the 
country. The court and the palace, the 
law courts, the Church, Parliament, mili- 
tary ceremonials, all present interesting fea- 
tures of customs and observances which time 
has consecrated and not destroyed. We shall 
notice many strange tenures of property ; 
curious bequests which perpetuate the eccen- 
tricity of the benefactors ; certain manorial 
customs which have been termed "jocular;" 
some municipal customs which certainly have 
their humorous side; and all the odd and 
fantastic observances which may be witnessed 
in the streets of our country towns, as well 
as in the homes of our villagers. 

In Pagan institutions we must ground 
many old customs and rites, which, travel- 
ling to us through an infinite succession of 
years, have been sadly distorted and disfigured 
in their progress. Old Paganism died hard, 
and fought long and stubbornly in its 
struggle with Christianity. How often do 
we find the incorporation of some ancient 
cult and Pagan custom in many observances 
sanctioned by years of Christian practice? 
The hot-cross buns on Good Friday, the 
bonfires on St. John's Eve relics of old 
Baal worship the hanging of mistletoe, the 
bringing in of the Yule-log, and countless 
4 " 



Origin of Customs 

other customs, many of which still survive, 
are the results of a compromise. The Chris- 
tian teachers found the people so wedded to 
their old rights and usages, that it was vain 
to hope for the complete abandonment of 
their long-cherished practices. Hence the 
old Pagan customs were shorn of their 
idolatry, and transferred to the Christian 
festivals. Nor is it uncommon to find sur- 
vivals of old forms of nature-worship, of 
various cults of hero or demigod, of pro- 
pitiatory offerings to the spirits of woods 
and streams, just as we find the old Norse 
legends of Loki and Heimdal and Sigyn on 
the Saxon crosses at Gosforth, blended with 
the triumphs of Christianity over the pros- 
trate Pagan deities. 

Sometimes local customs owe their origin 
to the popular will in some places, and have 
become part of the local law. In some cases 
we find that a particular custom, which seems 
strange and remarkable, is but a variation of 
some well-ascertained folk custom which once 
extended over a wide area. Other popular 
customs are only observed in one particular 
place, and owe their origin to some ascer- 
tained historical event. 1 They are frequently 
very extraordinary, and cause us to wonder 
how the wit of man ever invented such 

1 Presidential address to Folk-Lore Society, by Mr. J. L. 
Gomme. 



Old English Customs 

strange modes of expressing its ideas and 
feelings. We wonder, too, how they could 
have been preserved so long amid the many 
changes of our social life. We have festival 
customs, ceremonial customs, and sports and 
games, to which English folk have ever clung 
with fond affection. The Church has pre- 
served for us many of our festival customs ; 
ceremonial customs have been guarded by 
legal enactments, and become connected with 
all the chief events in human life. Hence 
we have a mass of customs associated with 
all our social institutions which will repay 
our careful examination and close scrutiny. 

Existing superstitions, as shown forth by 
examples of amazing credulity, will find no 
place in these pages ; we must leave to others 
to record the cases of modern witchcraft, 
fortune-telling, planet-ruling, and such won- 
der-working powers, startling to the philo- 
sopher of the nineteenth century, who be- 
lieved that all superstitions had been killed 
by modern culture and enlightenment. We 
seek only the ancient customs which survive 
in town or hamlet, in church or court, where, 
if our readers will bear us company, we can 
show to them the strange performance and 
wild, rude ceremony, and try to discover the 
origin and meaning of that which we behold. 
One request I fain would utter : " Villagers 
and most worthy townsfolk of England, we 
6 



Origin of Customs 

know that old customs are dying fast, that 
old practices are falling into disuse ; let them 
not die, I would beseech you at least not 
before these pages are written, lest our good 
friends whom I shall venture to bring with 
me to visit you should go away disappointed, 
and lest hereafter you should mourn the loss 
of those things which now appear to your 
enlightened minds of little value or interest/ 1 
Most of the local time-honoured customs of 
Old England are connected with the Church's 
Calendar. The Church always was the centre 
of the life of the old village, and the social 
amusements and holiday observances were 
associated with the principal feasts and fes- 
tivals of the Church. Fairs are still held in 
most places on the festival of the saint to 
whom the parish church is dedicated. Christ- 
mas, Easter, Ascension Day, Whitsuntide, 
still bring with them their accustomed modes 
of popular celebration. We propose to follow 
the course that the Calendar lays down for 
us, and notice all the remarkable observ- 
ances which have long ago been incorporated 
in old English life ; and as innocent asso- 
ciations of a simpler, perhaps a happier time, 
it would be a pity if ever they were allowed 
altogether to disappear. 



CHAPTER I 

Christmas customs Mumming Folk-drama in 
Devon, Yorks, Sfc. " Vessel boxes " - Carol- 
singing Furmety at Christmas Mistletoe and 
kissing-bush Plum-pudding Christmas-tree 
Bell customs at Dewsbury, Sfc. Boars-head at 
Oxford Barring out in Cumberland Mumping 
and goodening on St. Thomas' Day Hooden- 
ing " Picrous day " Burghead custom St. 
Stephen's Day and stoning the wren Yule 
Doos and local cakes Boxing Day Pantomimes 
Christmas cards. 

ALL the old poets sing in praise of the 
great festival of the Saviour's birth, which, 
according to Herrick, " sees December turned 
to May," and makes u the chilling winter's 
morn smile like a field beset with corn." 
Sir Walter Scott bewails the decline of the 
ancient modes of celebrating the festival, 
and says 

" England was merry England when 
Old Christmas brought his sports again ; 
A Christmas gambol oft would cheer 
A poor man's heart through all the year." 

The " Lord of Misrule " has been dead 
8 



Christmas Customs 

many years and been decently buried, though 
when alive he did not always merit that 
epithet. ThelfuJle^g_isjip_JjDnger drawn 
in state intoThT^aron'shall, but we have 
still some fragments of_ancient revels pre- 
served in__he_rnummers^ curious perform- 
ance. " Mumming " is supposed to be de- 
rived from the Danish word mumme^ or 
momme in Dutch, and signifies to disguise 
oneself with a mask. Dr. Johnson defines a 
mwnmePas one~who performs frolics in a 
personated dress. Modern mummers usually 
do not wear masks, but they dress themselves 
up in a strange garb resembling sheep-skins, 
except that instead of wool they have 
coloured paper cut into ribbons. The head- 
gear is elaborately covered with the same 
material. The dress of the characters is 
varied to suit their parts. They have frills 
over the knees in a fashion somewhat similar 
to that represented in some pictures of the 
time of Charles II. Their weapons are 
wooden swords, but " King George " usually 
sports an iron one fashioned by the village 
blacksmith. I have repeatedly witnessed the , 
performance of Berkshire mummers, which / 
is probably the remnant of some ancient 
"mystery" play, which time and the memo- 
ries of old Berkshire folk have considerably 
altered. 

There was a celebrated pageant of St. 
9 



Old English Customs 

George which existed in the fourteenth and 
fifteenth centuries, and took a foremost place 
among the miracle-plays of Old England. 
" St. George and the Dragon " is a well- 
known legend, to which the mumming play 
refers in the words 

" I am St. George, that noble champion bold, 
And with my trusty sword I won ten thousand 

pounds in gold ; 
'Twas I that fought the fiery dragon, and brought 

him to the slaughter, 
And by those means I won the King of Egypt's 

daughter." 

The scaley appearance of the dresses is sup- 
posed to allude to the scales of the dragon, 
but this interpretation seems fanciful. Then 
we have a crusading element introduced in 
the character of " the Turk," and the fierce 
fight between the Christian knight and " the 
black Morocco dog." Evidently the Christ- 
mas mumming play, and the other forms of 
folk-drama, the Plough Monday and the 
Pace egg plays, are adapted from divers 
sources, and are full of interest. 1 

It is not surprising that the mumming 
play has many variants ; indeed, it varies in 
different parts of the same county, not only 
in diction, but also in the dramatis per sonce. 

1 The subject of the English Folk-Drama has been carefully 
examined by Mr. T. F. Ordish. Cf. Folk-Lore Journal^ June 
1893- 

IO 



Mumming Plays 

The words are doggerel rhymes well 
suited to the idioms and pronunciation of 
the speakers. The plot in all the plays is 
somewhat similar. The first person, who 
acts the part of " the Greek Chorus," is 
either Beelzebub, otherwise represented as 
Father Christmas, or " Molly," a man dressed 
up as an old woman, who introduces the 
characters. Then enters " King George," a 
mighty hero, who boasts of his prowess, and 
challenges all brave warriors to fight. His 
challenge is accepted by another mighty hero, 
who is described in some places as the 
Turkish knight, at others as the Duke of 
Northumberland or a French officer. In 
Devonshire " Lord Nelson " also appears. 
A vigorous fight takes place between the 
two champions, in which " King George " 
is usually victorious, and his opponent falls 
grievously wounded. Sometimes " King 
George " is defeated, but he fights again 
and vanquishes his rival. Great consterna- 
tion ensues, and a doctor is hastily sum- 
moned 

" To cure this man lies bleeding on the ground." 

The " Doctor " comes, and administers a 
wonderful pill, which revives the prostrate 
foeman. The jester, " Jack Vinny," who 
prefers to be called " Mr. John Vinny," 
extracts a tooth from the wounded man, 
1 1 



Old English Customs 

and thus cures him. They dance together. 
" Happy Jack," a very melancholy person in 
tattered garments, sometimes bearing " his 
family," a number of little dolls, on. his 
back, enters, and requests some contribu- 
tions, and with some more rhymes repeated 
by " Beelzebub " the play ends, and the com- 
pany sing in turn some modern ditties. 

Such is the usual plot of a mumming play, 
subject to the variations which custom has 
introduced in different parts of the country. 

At Stoke Gabriel, Devon, the characters 
are St. George, Lord Nelson, a Frenchman, 
a Turk, a doctor and his wife, Beelzebub, 
and Father Christmas. Mighty duels with 
swords take place, and the Turk and French- 
man are defeated. At last Lord Nelson is 
wounded, and the doctor is summoned by 
the characters singing 

" Where is a doctor to be found 
To cure Lord Nelson's deep and deadly wound." 

In vain the doctor's efforts. Lord Nelson 
dies, and is carried out ; but he revives be- 
hind the scenes, and returns unofficially to 
swell the chorus. 

Between the duels the champions march 
up and down and sing. Of St. George and 
Nelson they say 

" With his pockets lined with red, 

And a heart that's ne'er afraid." 

12 



Mumming Plays 



But of the Frenchman and the Turk they 
say 

" With his pockets lined with blue, 
And a heart that's never true." 

The doctor and his wife are comic charac- 
ters, with masks and absurd dresses ; the 
wife is played by a boy, and causes great 
amusement by being rather indecorously 
rolled about on the floor and kicking. 
Beelzebub is grotesquely dressed, and Father 
Christmas wears the conventional garb of 
snowy whiteness. The other characters wear 
high pasteboard head-dresses decorated with 
beads and ribbons, and the rest of their attire 
is hung with ribbons, and made as gorgeous 
as possible. A fez adorns the head of the 
valiant Turk. 

The actual " Book of Words " of some 
of these plays may not be without interest, 
and some examples will be found in the 
Appendix. 

In Yorkshire the mummers come round 
and perform a very short sword-dance, but 
their mumming is nothing like the elaborate 
play which we have noticed elsewhere. 

Near Bradford, bands of men dressed as 
nigger minstrels, in very fantastic costumes, 
perambulate the streets playing fifes, con- 
certinas, kettledrums, and other instruments, 
and are known by the plain-spoken York- 
T 3 



Old English Customs 

shire term, " Bletherhead Bands." Some- 
times they enter the houses on New Year's 
Eve with besoms in order to " sweep out 
the old year." In Cornwall the mummers 
rejoice in the no less uncomplimentary 
term of " Geese-dancers ; " and in Stafford- 
shire they are known as the " Guisers." 
" Billy Beelzebub," the fool of the play 
performed yearly at Eccleshall, Staffordshire, 
and Newport, Shropshire, sings a song be- 
ginning 

" I am a jovial tinker, 

And have been all my life, 
So now I think it's time 

To seek a fresh young wife. 
And it's then with a friend will a merry life spend, 

And I never did yet I vow, 
With my rink-a-tink-tink, and a sup more drink, 

I'll make your old kettles cry sound, 
Sound, sound ! 

I'll make your old kettles cry sound." * 

The characters in the Guisers' play are : 
Open-the-door, Sing Ghiles (probably inten- 
ded for Sir Guy of Warwick), King George, 
Noble Soldier, Little Doctor, Black Prince 
of Paradise, Old Beelzebub, and Little Jack 
Devil-doubt. The first song of the com- 

1 A full account of the Guisers' play, with the words, is given 
in "Shropshire Folk-Lore," p. 483, and in Folk- Lore Journal, 
1886. 



Mumming Plays 



pany is tuneful and effective, and the words 
are 

" On a bleak and a cold frosty morning, 
When winter inclement they were scorning, 
Through the sparkling frost and snow, 
And a skating we will go. 

Will you follow ? will you follow ? 

To the sound of the merry, merry horn ! 

See how the skates they are glancing, 
From the right to the left they are dancing, 
And no danger shall we feel, 
With our weapons made of steel. 

Will you follow ? &c. 
* 

See how Victoria reigns o'er us ! 
She has health, she has wealth, to adore us (!) 
In the merry, merry month of May, 
All so lively, blithe, and gay. 
Will you follow? &c." 

The Sussex mummers are called "Tip- 
teerers," and their play, which resembles 
those printed in the Appendix, has appeared 
in the Folk- Lore Journal}' 

In Yorkshire, before Christmas, girls, and 
even women, come round bearing " vessel- 
boxes," a corruption evidently of " wassail," 
further changed to " vessel-cups " in the East 
Riding, and sing the well-known strains of 
" God rest you, merry gentlemen." At Leeds 

1 Cf. Folk- Lore Journal, 1884. 

15 



Old English Customs 

they sing "The five joys of Mary," which 
begins with the verse 

" The first good joy that Mary had, 

It was a joy of one, 
To see her own son, Jesus Christ, 
To suck at her breast-bone." 

The " vessel " is a box containing two 
dolls, representing the Virgin and Child 
decorated with ribbons, and having a glass 
lid. At Aberford it is called a Wesley-box, 
a further corruption of " wassail," and in no 
way alluding to the father of a distinguished 
sect. 

Carol-singing is very general in most parts 
of England, but few old carols are sung. 
" Good King Wenceslas," and other modern 
carols or hymns, have supplanted the ancient 
traditional ones. The singing of carols is a 
memorial of the hymn sung by the angels to 
the shepherds at Bethlehem. In some places 
the children carry round a doll laid in a box, 
a rude representation of the Holy Child in 
his manger-bed. 

In Worcestershire the carol-singers always 
end their songs with the following : 

" I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New 

Year, 

Pocket full of money, cellar full of beer, 
Good fat pig to last you all the year." 
16 



Christmas Carols 

In Cambridgeshire (Duxford) the favour- 
ite carol is the ancient one 

" God bless you, merry gentlemen, 

Let nothing you dismay, 
For remember Christ our Saviour 
Was born on Christmas Day." 

Cornish folk have always been famous for 
their carols. Even the knockers and other 
underground spirits, who are always heard to 
be working where there is tin, and who are 
said to be the ghosts of the Jews who cruci- 
fied Jesus, in olden times held mass and sang 
carols on Christmas Eve. 1 Some of the tunes 
of the modern Cornish carol-singers are 
very old. 

Cornish folk, too, are famous for their 
pies ; giblet-pie is the recognised Christmas 
dainty. Then they have squab-pie, made 
of mutton and apples, onions and raisins ; 
mackerel-pie, maggety-pie, and so many other 
pies that it is said, " The devil is afraid to 
come into Cornwall for fear of being baked 
in a pie." 

In Yorkshire, furmety, or wheat-corn boiled 
in milk with spices, is eaten on Christmas^ 
Eve. The mistletoe is still hung in our 1 
houses at Christmas-time, but few connect 
this instrument of mirth with the wild beliefs 
of our Norse ancestors. The mistletoe plays 

1 Folk-Lore Journal, 1886. 

I 7 B 



Old English Customs 

an important part in Scandinavian mythology, 
and the custom of hanging branches of this 
plant is common to all Norse nations. The 
legend is that Baldur was slain by a mistletoe 
dart at the instigation of Loki ; and in repara- 
tion for this injury the plant is dedicated to 
his mother Frigg, so long as it does not 
touch the earth, which is Loki's kingdom. 
Hence the mistletoe is hung from ceilings 
of our houses ; and the kiss given under it 
is a sign that it is no longer an instrument 
of mischief. In the sixteenth century fetes 
were held in France in honour of the mistletoe. 
Some contend that kissing under the mistletoe 
is a dead or dying custom ; others state that 
all kissing should be abandoned on the ground 
that it spreads infection. It is perhaps diffi- 
cult to arrive at any safe conclusion with 
regard to the prevalence of this particular 
custom, as those who practise it are not 
always the most forward in proclaiming their 
adherence to primitive usages. 

The old " kissing bunch " is still hung in 
some of the most old-fashioned cottage houses 
of Derbyshire and Cornwall two wooden 
hoops, one passing through the other, decked 
with evergreens, in the centre of which is 
hung " a crown " of rosy apples and a sprig 
of mistletoe. This is hung from the central 
beam of the living-room, and beneath it there 
is much kissing and romping. Later on, the 
18 



Christmas Plum-Pudding 

carol-singers stand beneath it and sing the 
familiar strains of " God rest ye, merry gen- 
tlemen," and " While shepherds watched." / 

Among the foods peculiar to special sea- 
sons, none is so common as the plum-pudding 
at Christmas. " Time immemorial " is the 
usual period assigned for the introduction of 
practices about which knowledge is limited, 
and the date of the invention of Christmas 
plum-puddings has been relegated to tj*at 
somewhat vague and indefinite period. 'But 
the plum-pudding is not older than the early 
years of the eighteenth century, and appears . 
to be a " House of Hanover " or " Act of 
Settlement " dish. The pre-Revolution or 
Stuart preparation of plums and other in- 
gredients was a porridge or pottage, and not 
a pudding, and was made with very strong 
broth of shin of beef. 

The searchers of the symbolical interpreta- 
tions contend that on account of the richness 
of its ingredients the plum-pudding is em- 
blematical of the offerings of the Wise Men. 
The same authorities assert that mince-pies, 
on account of their shape, are symbolical of 
the manger-bed of the Infant Saviour. I 
venture to think that such interpretations 
should be received with some hesitation. 

The children still delight in their Christmas- ' 
tree, which also belongs to no " immemorial 
time," the first Christmas tree being introduced - 



Old English Customs 

to this country by some German merchants 
who lived at Manchester. The Queen and 
Prince Albert also celebrated Christmas with 
its beautiful old German custom ; and the 
Court having set the fashion, Christmas-trees 
became general, and have brought endless 
delights to each succeeding generation of 
children. 

In a few remote districts in Cornwall on 
Christmas Eve children may occasionally be 
found dancing around painted lighted candles 
placed in a box of sand. 1 Church towers, too, 
are sometimes illuminated. Tennor Church 
tower was made brilliant by a beacon-light 
a few years ago, and we hope that the custom 
has been continued. 

A very interesting custom prevails near 
Dewsbury. On Christmas Eve, as soon as the 
last stroke of twelve o'clock has sounded, the 
age of the year e.g. 1 895 is tolled as on the 
death of any person. It is called the Old 
Lad's, or the Devil's, Passing Bell. A carol 
has been written on this subject : 

" Toll ! toll ! because thus ends the night, 

And empire old and vast, 
An empire of unquestioned right, 
O'er present and o'er past. 
Toll! 



1 Miss Courtney, "Cornish Customs, "Folk- Lore Journal, 1886. 
20 



Bell-Customs at Christmas 

Stretching far from east to west, 
Ruling over every breast, 

Each nation, tongue, and caste. 

Toll ! toll ! because a monarch dies, 

Whose tyrant statutes ran 
From Polar snows to Tropic skies, 

From Gravesend to Japan. 
Toll! 

Crowded cities, lonely glens, 
Oceans, mountains, shores, and fens, 

All owned him lord of man. 

Toll ! toll ! because the monarch fought 

Right fiercely for his own, 
And utmost craft and valour brought 

Before he was o'erthrown. 
Toll! 

He the lord and man the slave ; 
His the kingdom and the grave, 

And all its dim unknown. 

Joy ! joy ! because a babe is born, 

Who, after many a toil, 
The scorner's pride shall laugh to scorn 

And work the foiler's foil. 

Joy! 

God as Man the earth has trod, 

Therefore man shall be as God, 

And reap the spoiler's spoil." 

In many parishes the bells are tolled before 
midnight on the 3ist of December, and a 
21 



Old English Customs 

joyous peal heralds the advent of the New 
Year. At Kirton-in-Lindsay this custom is 
as old as 1632, the following entry appearing 
in the Churchwardens' account-books: " Item, 
to the ringer of new yeare day morninge 
xiid." 

In several places, notably at Woodchester, 
Gloucestershire ; Norton, near Evesham ; 
Wells and Leigh, Somerset, a muffled peal 
is rung on Holy Innocents' Day in com- 
memoration of the martyrdom of the Babes 
of Bethlehem. At Norton, after the muffled 
peal has ceased, the bells are unmuffled, and 
a joyous peal is rung for the deliverance of 
the Infant Jesus. 

-At Queen's College, Oxford, the Boar's- 
head feast is still celebrated with accustomed 
ceremonial. The mythical origin of the 
custom is the story of a student of the College 
who was attacked by a wild boar while he 
was diligently studying Aristotle during a 
walk near Shotover Hill, some five hundred 
years ago. His book was his only means of 
defence ; so he thrust the volume down the 
animal's throat, exclaiming, " Graecum est ! " 
The boar found Greek very difficult to digest, 
and died on the spot ; and the head was 
brought home in triumph by the student. 
Ever since that date, for five hundred years, 
a boar's-head has graced the College table at 
Christmas. The custom is really as old as 
22 



Boar s-Head Feast 

heathendom, and the entry of the boarVhead, 
decked with laurel and rosemary, recalls the 
sacrifice of the boar to Frigg at the midwinter 
feast of old Paganism. 

Every Christmas Day this " right merrie 
jouste of y e olden tyme" is enacted at 
Queen's College. A large boar's - head, 
weighing between sixty and seventy pounds, 
surmounted by a crown, wreathed with 
gilded sprays of laurel and bay, mistletoe 
and rosemary, with small banners surround- 
ing, is brought into the hall by three 
bearers, whose entry is announced by trum- 
pet. A procession of the Provost and 
Fellows precedes the entry of the boarV 
head. The bearers are accompanied by the 
precentor, who chants an old English carol, 
the Latin refrain being joined in by the 
company. The following are the words of 
this ancient ditty : 

" Caput apri defero, 

Reddens laudes Domino. 
The boar's-head in hand bring I, 
Bedecked with bays and rosemary ; 
And I pray you, masters, be merry, 

Qui estis in convivio. 

The boar's-head, I understand, 
Is the bravest dish in all the land, 
When thus bedecked with gay garland : 
Let us servire cantico. 

23 



Old English Customs 

Our steward hath provided this, 
In honour of the King of Bliss, 
Which on this day to be served is 
In Reginensi Atrio. 

Chorus Caput apri defero, 

Reddens laudes Domino." 

There are four versions of this ancient carol. 
The earliest is called " The Original Carole," 
taken from " Christmess Carolles, newly em- 
prynted at London in ye flete strete, at ye 
sygne of ye sonne, by Wynkyn de Worde. 
The yere of our Lorde m.d. xxi." The second 
is the one already quoted. The third is very 
rare, and is taken from the Balliol MSS., No. 
354 ; and the fourth is from the Porkington 
MSS., a fifteenth -century collection. The 
origin of this strange custom certainly can 
be traced to the old Scandinavian Yule fes- 
tival, when an offering of a boar's-head was 
always made. However, in support of the 
mythical story of the student and the boar, 
there is preserved in the College a picture of 
a saint having a boar's-head transfixed on a 
spear, with a mystic inscription, " Cop cot ; " 
and in Horspeth Church, near which the 
contest is supposed to have taken place, there 
is a window containing a representation of 
the incident. 

In spite of the schoolmaster and the School 
Board, the old custom of barring out during 
24 



Mumping on St. Thomas' Day 

the Christmas holidays still prevails in Cum- 
berland. A few years ago the Dalston School 
Board received a letter from the master, re- 
questing that the school might close on the 
Thursday before Christmas instead of the 
Friday, on the ground that " the old barba- 
rous custom of barring out " the schoolmaster 
might no longer be resorted to. If the 
school were opened on the Friday, the mas- 
ter was of opinion that the children might 
possibly be persuaded by outsiders to make 
an attempt to bar him out, and would then 
have to suffer a large amount of severe cas- 
tigation. The school was accordingly closed 
on the Thursday, much to the regret of the 
chairman and others, who would like to 
have witnessed the repetition of so ancient 
a custom. (Notes and Queries.) 

The festivals associated with Christmas 
have some old customs. On St. Thomas' 
Day (December 21), the custom of mumping 
is still practised in many places, notably at 
Hornsea, East Yorks, where the old women 
perambulate the town and are accustomed to 
receive small gratuities. The word mumping 
comes to us from the Dutch, and signifies to 
mumble or mutter. The beggars on this 
occasion are usually old people, and toothless 
age mumbles both food and words ; hence 
the beggars are called mumpers, and they are 
said " to go a mumping." In many parts of 
2 5 



Old English Customs 

the country it is called " going a-gooding ; " 
in Cheshire, " going a-Thomasing ; " and in 
some places in Staffordshire the money col- 
lected is given to the vicar and church- 
wardens, who distribute it to the poor aged 
folk on the Sunday after St. Thomas' Day. 
The following rhyme for this day is taken 
from the Bilston Mercury, Staffordshire : 

" Well a day, well a day, 
St. Thomas goes too soon away ; 
Then your gooding we do pray, 
For the good time will not stay. 
St. Thomas Grey, St. Thomas Grey, 
The longest night and the shortest day, 
Please to remember St. Thomas Day." 

At Stoulton, Worcester, and at Pole- 
brooke, Oundle, the custom of going " good- 
ing" or "Tommying" is kept up, and also 
at Newington-by-Sittingbourne, Kent, a beau- 
tiful village, where, amid a setting of orchard 
and hop-land, old-world manners may well 
be pleased to dwell. It is there known as 
goodenin'. The old widows assemble on St. 
Thomas' Day and proceed to the houses of 
the gentlemen and farmers, who are requested 
to " please remember the goodenin'." Gifts 
of money are bestowed upon the goodeners, 
who repair to the White Hart Inn and divide 
the spoil. The derivation of the word is 
a subject for conjecture. A correspondent 
26 



Hoodening 

suggests that it is derived from " goody," 
the name given to old widows ; while another 
writer connects goodening or hoodening with 
Woden or Odin, the presiding deity of the 
ancient Yuletide rites. 1 The custom also 
prevails in Hampshire, 2 and until recently 
at Great Gransden, Huntingdon, where the 
vicar now receives the alms and gives the old 
women a tea. 

Hoodening is a kind of old horse-head 
mumming once prevalent in Kent, and still 
exists in some places. Hoodening is ob- 
served still at Walmer; the young men per-[ 
ambulate the village, bearing a Hoodening 
Horse, a rudely cut wooden figure of a 
horse's-head with movable mouth, having 
rows of hob-nails for teeth, which opens 
and shuts by means of a string and closes 
with a loud sharp snap. It is furnished 
with a flowing mane, and is worn on the 
head of a ploughman, who is called the 
Hoodener. It is suggested that the wooden 
(pronounced 'ooden or hooden) horse's-head 
gave the name to hoodening or goodening. 
We must leave the solution of this difficult 
derivation to the discretion and judgment of 
our learned readers. 3 It is evidently con- 

1 " Kentish Odds and Ends," in Kentish Express, by A. Moore. 

2 " Old Woman's Outlook," Miss Young, p. 280. 

3 Hone suggests that it is an ancient relic of a festival ordained 
to commemorate our Saxon ancestors' landing in the Isle of 
Thanet. 

27 



Old English Customs 

nected with the old Pagan feast held on the 
Kalends of January in the seventh century, 
when men used to clothe themselves with the 
skins of cattle and carry heads of animals. 
A similar custom prevails at Northwich, 
Cheshire, on All Souls' Day, when a gang of 
boys and girls come round at night, reciting 
verses and singing snatches of songs, accom- 
panied by a man dressed as a horse. The 
monster prances and clatters with its hoof 
when a modest coin is presented to it. 
Possibly hoodening is a relic of the old 
hobby-horse dance which once formed one of 
the leading festivities in the Squire's hall at 
Christmas. At any rate, hoodening is a very 
ancient custom, which still lingers amongst 
us, and attracts the attention of the curious 
in Old English manners. 

At Kingscote, Gloucestershire, they have a 
peculiar kind of Bull Hoodening. Every 
Christmas, five or six villagers go from house 
to house with a wassail-bowl, and one per- 
sonates a bull by crouching on the ground, 
his body hid by sacking, and his head by a 
real bull's face, hair, and horns complete. 
He is commonly called " the Broad," and 
each verse of the Wassailing-Bowl song is 
sung, beginning : 

" Here's a health to Old Broad and to his right eye." 

The present Rector of Kingscote has 
28 



Picrous Day 

known the custom for sixty years, but has 
never heard of its existence in any other 
place, and no hint of its origin has been ob- 
tained. It is probably a survival of the old 
Pagan feast mentioned above. 

The following rhyme is uttered at Har- 
vington, Worcestershire : 

" Wissal, wassail, through the town, 
If you've got any apples throw them down ; 
Up with the stocking and down with the shoe, 
If you've got no apples, money will do ; 
The jug is white, and the ale is brown, 
This is the best house in the town." 

In some counties corn used for furmety is 
given away, and this is called in Lincolnshire 
u mumping wheat." At Saxton, near Tad- 
caster, Aberford, Sherburn, and other small 
towns in Yorkshire, the children go round to 
the farmhouses begging for furmety, singing 
the old doggrel verses. 

The second Thursday before Christmas in 
East Cornwall is observed by the miners as 
a holiday in honour of one of the reputed 
discoverers of tin. It is known as Picrous 
Day, but who this saint or early metal- 
worker was, history relateth not. There is 
also a White Thursday in Cornwall, in no 
way related to the Dominica in albis. It 
occurs on the last Thursday before Christmas, 
and tradition records that on this day white 
29 



Old English Customs 

tin (i.e.) smelted tin) was first made in 
Cornwall ; hence its name, Chewidder or 
White Thursday. (Notes and Queries.} 

Fishermen are somewhat superstitious folk, 
and love to preserve their ancient customs. 
The seamen of Burghead, Elgin, on Yule 
night meet at the west end of the town, 
carrying an old barrel, which they proceed to 
saw in two. The lower half is then nailed to 
a long spoke of firewood, which serves as a 
handle. The half barrel is then filled with 
dry wood saturated with tar, and built up 
like a pyramid, leaving a hollow to receive a 
burning peat. Should the bearer stumble 
or fall, the consequences would be unlucky 
to the town and to himself. The Claire is 
thrown down the western side of the hill, and 
a scramble ensues for the burning brands, 
which bring good luck, and are carried home 
and carefully preserved till the following year 
as a safeguard against all manner of ills. The 
Claire used to be carried round all the ships 
in the harbour, but this part of the custom 
has now been discontinued. (Folk-Lore.) 

Before the days of the Society for the 
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, boys 
were accustomed in many places, notably 
Essex, Ireland, and the Isle of Man, to 
kill wrens, and carry them about on furze 
bushes from house to house, repeating the 
words 

30 



Stoning the Wren 



" The wren, the wren, the king of the birds, 
St. Stephen's Day was killed in the furze ; 
Although he be little his family's great, 
And so, good people, give us a treat." 

The origin of the cruel custom is curious. 
There is a Norse legend of a beautiful siren who 
bewitched men and lured them into the sea, 
after the fashion of the Lurlie of Rhineland 
fame. A charm was obtained to counteract 
her evil influence and capture the siren, who 
contrived to escape by assuming the form of 
a wren. Once every year, presumably on St. 
Stephen's Day, she was compelled by a power- 
ful spell to appear in the guise of the bird, 
and ultimately to be slaughtered by mortal 
hand. Hence poor wrens are killed in the 
hope of effecting the destruction of the 
beautiful siren. The feathers of the birds 
are plucked and preserved as a prevention 
from death by shipwreck, and formerly its 
body was placed in a bier, and buried with 
much solemnity in a grave in the church- 
yard, while dirges were sung over its last 
resting-place. Few wrens are stoned now, 
and I imagined that the custom had happily 
died out. However, in the Isle of Man I 
find that it still lingers, and the " hunting 
of the wren " is solemnised to a large extent. 
Numerous " bushes " are borne about by 
groups of lads chanting a monotonous ditty. 
They adorn the " bushes " with much taste, 

3 1 



Old English Customs 

but a large number are usually minus the 
wren itself. The bush consists of two hoops 
crossed, with a wren suspended by the legs 
in the centre. The usual rhyme is 

" We hunted the wren for Robin the Bobbin ; 
We hunted the wren for Jack of the Can ; 
We hunted the wren for Robin the Bobbin ; 
We hunted the wren for every one." 

The boys collect money, and present a feather 
of the bird to each donor, which is supposed 
to avert the danger of shipwreck. Afterwards 
the bird is buried on the seashore (formerly 
in the churchyard) with much solemnity, 
and dirges in Manx language are sung over 
it. (Folk-Lore and Notes and Queries.} 

A wren-box was sold at Christie's a few 
years ago, which used to be carried in pro- 
cession in some parts of Wales on St. 
Stephen's Day. It is about seven inches 
square, and has a glass window at one end. 
Into this box a wren was placed, and it was 
hoisted on two long poles, and carried round 
the town by four strong men, who affected 
to find the burden heavy. Stopping at in- 
tervals, they sang 

" ' O where are you going ? ' says milder to melder ; 
'O where are you going?' says the younger to the elder. 
' O I cannot tell,' says Festel to Fose ; 
' We're going to the woods/ said John the Red Nose. 
We're going, &c. 

32 



Stoning the Wren 

' O what will you do there ? ' says milder to melder ; 
' O what will you do there ? ' says the younger to 

the elder. 

' O I do not know,' says Festel to Fose ; 
1 To shoot the cutty wren,' says John the Red Nose. 
To shoot, &c." 

And so on for eight more verses, taking the 
form of question and answer, as in the 
ballad of " Cock Robin," and describing the 
method of shooting the wren, cutting it up, 
and finally boiling it. 

Fanciful interpreters have seen in the 
stoning of the wren a connection with the 
stoning of St. Stephen, whose martyrdom 
occurred on the day of the observance of 
this barbarous custom. Another legend is 
that one of St. Stephen's guards was awak- 
ened by a bird just as his prisoner was about 
to escape. In Worcestershire St. Stephen's 
Day is a great occasion for pigeon-shooting. 
Possibly this may have arisen from the old- 
world custom of hunting the wren. 

In the North of England children are still 
regaled with Yule "doos," which are flat 
cakes, from six to twelve inches long, roughly 
cut into the shape of a human figure, raisins 
being inserted for the eyes and nose. The 
name is probably derived from dough, and 
the shape was doubtless originally intended 
to represent the Infant Saviour with the 
Virgin Mary. In Cornwall, too, they have 
33 c 



Old English Customs 

a peculiar cake, a small portion of the dough 
in the centre of each top being pulled up ; 
and this small headpiece to the cake is called 
"The Christmas." The cakes are given 
away to poor people, and each member of 
the family has his own special cake. The 
whole subject of local cakes, feasten and 
customary, is full of interest ; and at a 
recent Folk-lore Congress, Mrs. Gomme 
exhibited a large collection gathered from 
different parts of Great Britain. There are 
cakes peculiar to certain towns and villages ; 
cakes commemorative of special events ; cakes 
connected with harvest, sowing, births, mar- 
riages, funerals, and the great Church fes- 
tivals, and others. It is surprising to learn 
the amazing number of peculiar forms 
which local custom has sanctioned and 
ordained, and the old Yule "doos" were 
not the least interesting of this remarkable 
collection. 

Children of both "larger and smaller 
growth " still look forward to the Christmas 
Pantomime, which, in spite of modern de- 
velopments, maintains its popularity, espe- 
cially in the provinces. Pantomimes have 
entirely changed their character since they 
were first introduced into this country by 
a dancing - master of Shrewsbury, named 
Weaver, in 1702. The humours of Grimaldi 
and his successors, the merry tricks of the 
34 



Boxing Day 

clown and the diversions of the harlequinade, 
have given place to grand spectacular dis- 
plays and scenic effects which would certainly 
have astonished our forefathers. However, 
the Pantomime will probably long continue 
to hold its place on the list of existing cus- 
toms of the English people. 

The day after Christmas is still known as 
" Boxing Day," and is so called from the 
" Christmas Boxes " which used to be in 
circulation at that time. In the British 
Museum are specimens of "thrift -boxes " 
small and wide bottles with imitation 
stoppers, from three to four inches in height, 
of thin clay, the upper part covered with 
a green glaze. On one side is a slit for the 
introduction of money, and as the small 
presents were collected at Christmas in these 
money-pots, they were called Christmas 
boxes. Thus these boxes gave the name to 
the present itself and to the day when these 
gifts were commonly made. Christmas gift- 
books are extensively published now. The 
first announcement of such a book appeared 
in the General Advertiser of January 9, 
1750, and was published by Mr. J. New- 
berry at the " Bible and Sun " in St. Paul's 
Churchyard. It was called " Nurse True- 
love's Christmas Box ; or, The Golden Play- 
thing for Little Children, by which they 
may learn the letters as soon as they can 

35 



Old English Customs 

speak, and know how to behave so as to 
make everybody love them." 

The sending of Christmas-cards is a very 
popular custom, which shows no signs of 
decay. The custom is of very recent growth, 
the first English Christmas-card being issued 
from Summerly's Home Treasury Office, 12 
Old Bond Street, in j_84fL- The design was 
drawn by J. C. Horsley, R.A., at the sug- 
gestion of Sir Henry Cole, K.C.B., repre- 
senting a merry family party gathered round 
a table quaffing generous draughts of wine. 
The sale of a thousand copies of this card 
was then considered a large circulation. Since 
those days the custom has become universal. 
If good wishes could bring us happiness, 
our cups of joy would indeed be full, 
and a " Merry Christmas and a Happy New 
Year" would fall to the lot of all, except to 
the postmen. 



\ 
* 



CHAPTER-^!! 

New Years Day and Jirst-footing Banjfshire 
custom Wassail bowls New Years gifts and 
good wishes Midnight services Queen's Col- 
lege, Oxford Yorks custom Local rhymes and 
wassailers Quaaltagh in Isle of Man Twelfth 
Night or Epiphany Plough Monday Wassail- 
ing orchards Court custom Haxey Hood 
Watching animals St. Paul's Day Valentine's 
Day Islip valentine Customs in Berks and 
Essex Hurling at St. Ives. 

ONE of the earliest customs that I can 
recollect is that of first-footing on New 
Year's Eve, which is commonly practised in 
the North of England and in Scotland. The 
first person who enters the house after mid- 
night is called the first-foot, and is esteemed 
as a herald of good fortune. In Lancashire 
this important person must be a dark-com- 
plexioned man, otherwise superstitious folk 
believe that ill-luck will befall the house- 
hold. In some other parts of England a 
light-complexioned man is considered a more 
favourable harbinger of good fortune. 

Indeed, there seems to be a great variety 
of opinion with regard to the complexion 
37 



Old English Customs 

of a "first-foot." In Northumberland a 
light-haired and flat-footed man is pre- 
ferred ; in Fife, red hair and a flat foot are to 
be avoided. Sometimes a man is preferred, 
sometimes a boy; occasionally women are 
chosen ; at other places they are strongly 
objected to. Quot homines tot sententice is 
certainly true with regard to the appearance 
and sex of the lucky " first-foot." The 
person who performs this duty in Durham is 
bound by custom to bring in a piece of coa], 
a piece of iron, and a bottle of whisky. 
To each man of the company he gives a 
glass, and to each woman a kiss. 

On these occasions sweetened ale or egg- 
flip are the prescribed beverages for the 
drinking of healths when the new year is 
" brought in." In Banffshire the villagers 
covered up the peat fire with the ashes and 
smoothed them down. These were examined 
in the morning, and if the trace of any re- 
semblance to the print of a foot with the 
toes pointing to the door could be detected, 
it was believed that one of the family would 
die or leave home during the year. 

In " Auld Reekie " the custom of first- 
footing is observed with much enthusiasm. 
Crowds assemble, as midnight approaches, 
nigh the old Tron Church, and usher in the 
new year with much shouting and hand- 
shaking. Much might be written concerning 

38 



New Year Customs 

the New Year customs of Scotland, but we 
are concerned chiefly in the consideration of 
English customs, and must not stray across 
the Border. 

In ancient days the wassail bowl of spiced 
ale was carried round from house to house 
by the village maidens, who sang songs and 
wished every one " a happy new year." In 
fact, wassail was heard all over the land, from 
cot to keep, from mansion to monastery, 
where the poculum caritatis was passed 
round with accustomed rejoicings. The 
loving cup at our civic feasts, the grace 
cup at our college "gaudies," are the sole 
relics of this ancient observance. 

The presentation of New Year's and 
Christmas cards, and of other more costly 
gifts to friends at this season, is universally 
practised, and this practice is as old as the 
time of the Romans. Hone tells us of 
a remarkable lawsuit arising out of this 
custom. A poet was commissioned by a 
Roman pastry-cook to write some mottoes 
for the New Year's Day bonbons, and 
agreed to supply five hundred couplets for 
six livres. Although the poet's eye with 
fine frenzy rolled, and the couplets were 
completed in due course, he did not re- 
ceive the stipulated reward for his labours. 
Hence the lawsuit, and we trust the poet 
obtained due compensation. Crackers were 
39 



Old English Customs 

not then invented, but we still have our 
mottoes, which can thus claim a very re- 
spectable antiquity. 

The Church endeavoured to overthrow 
many old customs on account of the super- 
stitions connected with them ; and New 
Year's gifts were objected to because they 
were originally offered as omens of success 
for the coming year. Even superstition was 
supposed to lurk in the benevolent greeting, 
" A happy new year to you." An old Puri- 
tan as late as A.D. 1750, in the poem called 
" The Popish Kingdom," thus describes the 
sins of his countrymen : 

"The next to this is New Year's Day, whereon to 

every friend 
They costly presents in do bring, and newe yeare's 

gifts do sende ; 
These gifts the husband gives his wife, and father 

eke the childe, 
And master on his men bestowes the like with 

favour milde ; 
And good beginning of the yeare they wishe and 

wishe again, 
According to the ancient guise of heathen people 

vaine." 

We need not record how universal was the 
practice ; how Roman citizens gave strencz 
to each other ; how kings and emperors 
took toll of their subjects ; how Henry VI. 
received his New Year's gifts of food and 
40 



New Year Customs 

jewels, geese, turkeys, hens, and sweetmeats ; 
how Queen Elizabeth was gratified by re- 
ceiving a vast store of offerings, including 
caskets studded with gems, necklaces, brace- 
lets, gowns, mantles, smocks, petticoats, 
mirrors, fans, and a pair of black silk stock- 
ings, knitted by Mrs. Montague for her royal 
mistress, who never afterwards wore cloth 
hose. New Year's Day is still happily ushered 
in by the giving of presents, and of cards con- 
veying to us the good wishes of our friends ; 
and we trust that this practice may long 
continue. 

A midnight service is now the most usual 
manner of ushering in the new year. At 
Basingstoke it is customary to sing the " Old 
Hundredth" on the church tower at mid- 
night, at the close of the service. We be- 
lieve that these Watch Night Services were 
first introduced by the Wesleyan Methodists, 
whose example Churchmen have wisely copied, 
with much benefit to their congregations. 

In former days it used to be the fashion for 
people to exercise their wit by making a rebus 
out of their name, and they loved to record 
at once their family and their humour by 
handing down to posterity the witticism 
which they had devised. Thus at St. Bartho- 
lomew's Church, Smithfield, we see a bar stuck 
in a barrel, which serves to immortalise the 
family of Barton. The founder of Queen's 



Old English Customs 

College, Oxford, Robert de Eglesfield, 
sought to preserve the memory of his good 
deeds by a similar device, and directed that 
on New Year's Day a needle and thread, a 
rebus on his name, Aiguille et fil (Egles- 
feld), should be given to each member of 
the College. This custom is performed 
every year by the bursar of the College, who, 
according to ancient usage, adds the whole- 
some moral, "Take this, and be thrifty." 
This sage counsel is better than the founder's 
wit, which can scarcely be said to be as sharp 
as his needle's point. As the students are 
away from Oxford on New Year's Day, the 
Fellows and their guests receive the time- 
honoured gift. 

At Skipsea, in Holderness, Yorkshire, the 
young men gather together at twelve o'clock 
on New Year's Eve, and, after blackening 
their faces and otherwise disguising them- 
selves, they pass through the village, each 
having a piece of chalk. With this chalk 
they mark the gates, doors, shutters, and 
waggons with the date of the new year. It 
is considered lucky to have one's house so 
dated, and no attempt is ever made to dis- 
turb the youths in the execution of their 
frolic. 

There are many old rhymes which were 
sung by the maidens as they carried from 
door to door a bowl richly decorated with 
42 



Wassailing 

evergreens and ribbons, and filled with a 
compound of ale, roasted apples, and toast, 
and seasoned with nutmeg and sugar. Here 
is one from Nottinghamshire, but I know 
not whether it is still sung : 

" Good master, at your door 
Our wassail we begin ; 
We all are maidens poor, 
So we pray you let us in, 
And drink our wassail. 

All hail, wassail ! 

Wassail! wassail! 
And drink our wassail ! l? 

Halliwell, in his " Popular Rhymes," gives 
the following, which was sung at Yarmouth, 
Isle of Wight : 1 

" Wassal, wassal, to our town ; 
The cup is white and the ale is brown ; 
The cup is made of the ashen tree, 
And so is the ale of the good barley. 
Little maid, little maid, turn the pin, 
Open the door and let us in ; 
God be here, God be there, 
I wish you all a happy New Year." 

At Oldham, in Lancashire, the wassailers 
still come round with their bunches of ever- 
greens hung with oranges and apples and 

1 Cf. Folk-Lore Journal, 1884, p. 25. 

43 



Old English Customs 

coloured ribbons, and sing the following 
carol : 

" Here we come a-wassailing 

Among the leaves so green ; 
Here we come a-singing, 

So fair to be seen. 
For it is in Christmas-time 

Strangers travel far and near ; 
So God bless you, and send you 

A happy new year." 

Until quite recently, in the same town, a 
gang of men used to come round " agganow- 
ing," and sang a strange ditty, which ran 
something after this fashion : 

" We're come to give you warning 
It's New Year's Day a morning, 
With a hey and a how, 
And an aggan agganow." 

Possibly this may be connected with the 
old Hagmanay or Hogmanay carol which 
used to be sung in the North Country at this 
time of year. Brewer derives the word from 
the Saxon hdlig monath, or holy month, and 
states that King Haco of Norway fixed the 
feast of Yule on Christmas Day, the eve of 
which was called Hogg-night, but the Scots 
were taught by the French to transfer the feast 
of Yule to the feast of Noel, and Hogg-night 
has ever since been the eve of New Year's Day. 

In the Isle of Man the old custom called 
the " Quaaltagh " is still partially observed. 
44 



The i^uaaltagh 

In almost every district a party of young men 
go from house to house singing a rhyme in 
the Manx language, which translated is as 
follows : 

" Again we assemble, a merry New Year 
To wish to each one of the family here, 
Whether man, woman, or girl, or boy, 
That long life and happiness all may enjoy. 
May they of potatoes and herrings have plenty, 
With butter and cheese and each other dainty, 
And may their sleep never, by night or by day, 
Disturbed be by even the tooth of a flea, 
Until at the Quaaltagh again we appear, 
To wish you, as now, all a happy New Year." 

When these lines are repeated at the door, 
the party are invited into the house and par- 
take of refreshments. The one who enters 
first is called the " Quaaltagh," or first-foot, 
and, as in the northern parts of England, it 
is essential for good fortune that he should 
be dark-complexioned. The actors do not 
assume a fantastic garb like the mummers of 
England or the guiscards of Scotland, nor 
are they accompanied by minstrels. As in 
Banffshire, the housewives in many of the 
upland cottages, before retiring to bed, spread 
the ashes smoothly on the hearth, and if in 
the morning the print of a foot can be 
detected with the toe pointing towards the 
door, they believe there will be a death in 
the family during the year; but if the toe 
45 



Old English Customs 

points in a contrary direction, the family will 
not fail to have an increase. At St. Albans 
"Pop Ladies" are cried and sold in the 
streets, and in parts of Wales children go 
round showing a " calening " and wishing 
good luck in return for pence or cake. 

Twelfth Night, or Old Christmas Day, was 
formerly the appointed time for the observ- 
ance of many old customs which are now 
defunct. No longer are kings and queens 
of rural festivals elected by the lot of the 
bean and the pea hidden in a cake. St. Dis- 
taff's Day is no more. We feared that the 
sounds of rustic revelry had died away when 
the orchards were wassailed and the ancient 
rhyme chanted 

" Here's to thee, old apple-tree, 
Whence thou may'st bud, and whence thou may'st blow, 
And whence thou may'st bear apples enow ! 
Hats full! caps full! 
Bushel bushel sacks full, 
And my pockets full too ! Huzza ! " 

But we are relieved to find that the apple- 
wassail has not quite passed away. Three 
years ago the custom prevailed at Duncton, 
near Petworth, on the South Downs, and on 
Old Christmas Eve the voices of the younger 
villagers sang their lays to the apple-trees, 
the old " Mistletoe Bough" being one of 
their favourite ditties. The wassail is sup- 



Orchard Customs 

posed to help the growth and abundance of 
apples for cider-making, and " the oldest in- 
habitant" can recollect that the custom has 
been kept up for the last fifty years. 

In " Bygone Days in Devonshire and Corn- 
wall," published in 1874, the authoress, Mrs. 
Whitcombe, states that the above rhyme is 
still repeated by the farmer's family and 
friends when gathered round the orchard 
trees, who sprinkle cider over the roots and 
hang cake on the branches. 

The custom of firing guns under apple- 
trees is not entirely defunct in Devonshire. 
In 1889 the custom prevailed at Cullompton. 
When the parson was popular, the line " old 
parson's breeches full," was added to the 
rhyme quoted above. 

In Surrey the boys sing the following rhyme 
under the apple-trees in the Surrey orchards: 

" Here stands a good apple-tree, 
Stand fast at root, 
Bear well at top ; 
Every little twig 
Bear an apple big : 
Every little bough 
Bear an apple now ; 
Hats full ! caps full ! 
Threescore sacks full ! 
Hullo, boys ! hullo ! " 

We thought, too, that Plough Monday 
was dead, and that the ploughmen no longer 

47 



Old English Customs 

dragged their ploughs from village to village, 
dancing while " Bess " rattled her money- 
box. The money was in pre-Reformation 
times devoted to the maintenance of the 
ploughmen's light, which burned before the 
altar of the Ploughmen's Guild in the chantry 
of the church. But we are glad to find that 
Plough Monday is still observed in Cam- 
bridgeshire, where bands of young men, pro- 
fusely ornamented with scarves and ribbons, 
drag wooden ploughs of a primitive descrip- 
tion along the streets. But " Bess," a man 
dressed as a woman, no longer forms part of 
this quaint procession. The custom also pre- 
vails in Huntingdonshire. At Great Grans- 
den a party of men decked with ribbons go 
round the village with a decorated plough, 
repeating in a shrill monotone 

" Remember us poor ploughboys, 

A ploughing we must go ; 
Hail, rain, blow, or snow, 
A ploughing we must go." 

A few years ago the men used to plough 
up the lawn, or the scrapers and door-steps, 
if no money was given. 

The Plough Monday play, one of the few 
remaining specimens of English folk-drama, 
still survives. It resembles in some points 
the Christmas and Easter plays, but has seve- 
ral distinguishing features. In the Plough 
48 



Plough Monday Play 

Monday play there is no St. George, and the 
principal feature is the sword - dance. In 
Lincolnshire the actors who drag the plough 
along are called plough-bullocks ; in Yorks 
they are known as plough-stotts. The play, 
as performed recently at Wyverton Hall, 
Nottinghamshire, is printed in "A Cavalier 
Stronghold," by Mrs. Musters. "Hopper 
Joe " carries a basket, as if he were going to 
sow seeds, in which the spectators place money. 
The sergeant arrays himself in some old 
uniform, and the young lady always wears a 
veil ; Beelzebub has a blackened face, and 
either a besom of straw or a club with a 
bladder fastened at the end. The chief feature 
of the play is the raising to life of the old 
woman, whom Beelzebub has knocked down, 
by the doctor, who is always dressed in the 
smartest modern clothes, with a riding-whip 
and a top-hat. Sometimes they wear ribbons 
and rosettes and feathers stuck in their hats, 
and the brass ornaments of their horses' har- 
ness hanging down in front. Sometimes they 
have figures of small horses and ploughs in 
red and black fastened on their dress. One 
of the mummers in the Lincolnshire Plough 
Monday procession usually wears a fox's skin 
in the form of a hood, and " Bessy " a bullock's 
tail under her gown, which he holds in his 
hand when dancing. 

Plough Monday is also observed in the 
49 D 



Old English Customs 

City of London, when a special meeting of 
the Wards takes place, and the Lord Mayor 
gives a banquet. 

There is also the interesting ceremony 
performed every year at the Chapel Royal, 
St. James's Palace, when, on behalf of the 
sovereign, gold, frankincense, and myrrh are 
presented on the altar in remembrance of the 
gifts of the Magi to the Infant Saviour. 1 

At Haxey, in North Lincolnshire, on the 
Feast of the Epiphany, a curious custom 
prevails. A roll of canvas tightly corded 
together, about three inches in diameter and 
two feet long, is thrown down amidst a crowd 
of rural revellers, and a violent struggle for 
its possession takes place. It is called the 
" Haxey Hood," and tradition states that its 
originator was a Lady Mowbray, who when 
riding to church lost her hood, which was 
blown off by a gale of wind. Twelve 
labourers rushed to capture the lady's head- 
gear, and caused her much amusement by 
their eager endeavours. She was so gratified 
by their civility that she promised to give a 
piece of ground, still called the Hoodlands, 
for the purpose of providing a hood to be 
thrown up annually on Old Christmas Day, 
and to be contended for on the same spot 
where her hood had been blown off. More- 
over, she ordered that the twelve men should 

1 Cf. " Court Customs," infra. 

5 



Haxey Hood 

be clothed in scarlet jerkins and velvet caps, 
but the boggons, as they are called, are now 
dressed as morris-dancers. Many people 
flock to take part in this curious contest, 
and much excitement prevails. The hood 
is thrown from the old mill, near the spot 
where the accident happened, and the villagers 
strive to kick or carry it, after the manner 
of a football, to their own hamlet. The 
boggons stand round the field and try to 
prevent the hood from being taken beyond 
its boundaries. Should they capture it, it 
is taken to the chief of the boggons, who 
throws it again from the mill. Whoever 
succeeds in conveying it to the cellars of 
any public-house is rewarded by receiving 
one shilling. The next day the boggons, 
or plough -bullocks, go round dragging a 
small plough, and collect money, crying 
" Largess," and run races and wrestle in the 
evening. This is a curious survival of an 
ancient custom. 

In Suffolk it has always been usual in 
farmhouses to have furmety at meals, espe- 
cially at breakfast, during the period from 
Christmas to Old Christmas Day. In Leices- 
tershire special cakes are given to children 
on the Epiphany feast. In Worcestershire 
Epiphany or Old Christmas Day is observed 
much as Christmas Day itself, and during 
this season bands of musicians go round 

5 1 



Old English Customs 

and play at the houses in the neighbour- 
hood. 

In the north of Hampshire the old villagers 
sit up till twelve o'clock on Old Christmas 
Night, and as soon as they hear the leaves 
rustling they go to the nearest cow or horse 
stable to watch the animals stand up and lie 
down on their other side. The villagers 
who keep up the custom can no longer 
explain the meaning of it. The idea of 
watching the animals arose from the belief 
that at twelve o'clock on the night of the 
Nativity oxen knelt in their stalls in honour 
of the event ; and the rustling of the leaves 
is connected with the tradition that thorn- 
trees blossom at midnight to commemorate 
the Saviour's birth. The same beliefs are 
current in the neighbourhood of Stoneyhurst, 
Lancashire, where there are not wanting wit- 
nesses to the truth of the fact of the midnight 
blossoming. Cornish folk also believe that 
sheep turn to the east and bow their heads 
on Old Christmas Night in memory of the 
sheep belonging to the shepherds at Beth- 
lehem. They take it also that as the sheep 
observe this custom on Old Christmas Night, 
that must be the actual day of the Nativity, 
and not December 25th. This maybe com- 
pared to the old Yorkshire custom of watch- 
ing the beehives on the new and old Christmas 
Eve, to determine upon the right Christmas 

5 2 



Valentine s Day 

from the humming noise which they suppose 
the bees will make on the anniversary of the 
birth of our Saviour. 

January 24th, St. Paul's Day, is a holiday 
with the miners of Cornwall, who call it 
Paul Pitcher Day, from a custom they have 
of setting up a water pitcher and pelting it 
with stones until it is broken. A new one 
is then brought, and carried to the ale-house 
to be filled with beer. Throwing broken 
pitchers and other vessels against the door of 
the houses is also another favourite amuse- 
ment of Paul Pitcher Eve. Young men 
perambulate the village, and exclaim as they 
throw the sherds 

" St. Paul's Eve, 
And here's a heave." a 

St. Valentine's Day, the time-honoured 
festival of lovers, the theme of poets, has 
been shorn of its ancient glories, although 
valentines still adorn the shop-windows on 
February I4th. The saint was a priest and 
martyr in Italy in the third century, and 
why the day of his death should have been 
selected for the drawing of lots for sweet- 
hearts and for sending affectionate greetings 
is not very evident. The custom seems to 
have originated in France, whence it migrated 

1 This is mentioned in Notes and Queries, 1874, and I gather 
from Miss Courtney's article in Folk-Lore that it still exists. 

53 



Old English Customs 

to Scotland, and thence to England. The 
first Sunday in Lent was, in ancient times, 
the usual day for its observance, and that 
day was generally known as le jour des valen- 
tines, when the maidens selected their valen- 
tines as gallants or future husbands. Hence 
our Valentine's Day is really the " day of 
valentines," when valentines or gallants were 
chosen, and is in no way connected with the 
saint whose feast has been commonly asso- 
ciated with the festival of lovers. 1 

In Leicestershire lozenge-shaped buns, with 
currants and caraways, called shittles, are 
given to the old people and children on this 
day, notably at Glaston and Market Overton 
(Rutland). The bakers call them " valentine 
buns." 

Some very homely rhymes are still sent by 
rural lovers to their adored ones. From 
Islip, Oxfordshire, we have the following : 

" Come, my little sogar dear, 
Wash your face and curl your hair, 
And you'll be mine and I'll be thine, 
And so good-morrow, Valentine. 
As I sat in my garden chair, 
I saw two birds fly in the air, 
And two by two and pair by pair, 
Which made me think of you, my dear." 



1 Cf, a note by F. Chance in Notes and Queries, 7th Series, 
v., Feb. 1 8, 1888. 

54 



Valentine s Day 

It is not necessary to record the ancient 
customs which prevailed on this day, long 
since obsolete, when fair maidens refused to 
open their eyes until their favourite admirers 
appeared and claimed the privilege of being 
their valentine for the year, or when a happy 
youth drew by lot the name of some girl 
whom he was bound by all the laws of St. 
Valentine to admire and serve as her gallant 
lover. The written valentine was of later 
growth, and many a fate has the following 
effusion sealed : 

" The rose is red, the violet blue, 
The pink is sweet, and so are you. 
Thou art my love, and I am thine ; 
I drew thee to my valentine ; 
The lot was cast, and then I drew, 
And fortune said it should be you." 

The boys of Berkshire are more practical, 
and use the opportunity for collecting small 
bribes, repeating the following rhyme : 

" Knock the kittle agin the pan, 

Gie us a penny if 'e can ; 
We be ragged an' you be vine, 

Plaze to gie us a valentine. 
Up wi* the kittle and down wi' the spout, 

Gie us a penny an' we'll gie out." 

The meaning of " we'll gie out " appears to 
be " we'll stop singing." 

At the village of High Roding, Essex, the 

55 



Old English Customs 

children, according to ancient custom, visit 
the houses of the residents and sing with 
great glee the lines 

" Good morning to your valentine, 
Curl your locks as I do mine ; 
Two before and two behind, 
Good morning to your valentine. 
I only come but once a year, 
Pray give me some money as I stand here, 
A piece of cake or a glass of wine, 
Good morning to your valentine." 

Among the gratuities distributed are the 
usual batch of bright new sixpences, one of 
which is given to every child in the parish 
who presents himself or herself at the Ware 
Farm at eight A.M. on Valentine's Day. 
The same verses are sung at Duxford, Cam- 
bridge. 

In East Anglia it is customary to leave 
small presents on the doorstep, to ring the 
bell violently, and then run away. It is 
not always easy to transplant old customs, 
and I can well remember the trouble which a 
Suffolk doctor brought upon himself, who, 
on removing to a northern county, tried to 
gain the affections of his new patients by 
introducing this harmless pleasantry. The 
natives did not understand the custom, and 
thought that it might be connected with the 
first of April. 



Hurling 



A remarkable set of verses comes from 
Northrepps, where the children sing : 

" Good morrow, Valentine ! 

How it do Hail ! 
When Father's pig die, 
You shall ha' its tail. 

Good morrow, Valentine ! 

How thundering Hot ! 
When Father's pig die, 

You shall ha' its jot." 

The jot is the tripe of the pig, considered a 
delicacy by Norfolk poor people. 

The annual custom of holding a hurling 
match continues at St. Ives, Cornwall, and is 
observed on the Monday after the feast day 
which falls on Quinquagesima Sunday. It is 
scarcely necessary to describe the old game of 
hurling, which resembles a Rugby game of 
football without the kicking of the ball. The 
ball is about the size of a cricket-ball, formed 
of cork or light wood. It is certainly " a 
play verily both rude and rough," as an old 
writer aptly describes it. Formerly village 
fought with village at these annual hurling 
matches; but probably on account of the 
severe rivalry and ferocity displayed these 
contests were discontinued. But at St. Ives 
one part of a parish plays against another on 
the sands on the day of the feast. All the 
57 




Old English Customs 

Toms, Wills, and Johns are on one side, 
while those having other Christian names 
range themselves on the other. At St. 
Columb the towns-folk contend against the 
country-folk; at Truro the married men 
with the unmarried ; and at Helston two 
streets with all the other streets. This takes 
place on May 2nd, when the boundaries of 
the town are perambulated. 



CHAPTER III 

Lenten customs Shrove Tuesday Pancake- 
bell Shroving Tossing pancakes at Westminster 
Devonshire rhymes Welsh survival of thrash- 
ing the hen Coquilles at Norwich Football on 
Shrove Monday Mothering Sunday Simnels 
Care Sunday Palm Sunday and ball-play Fig 
Sunday Spy Wednesday Maundy Thursday 
Good Friday and hot cross buns Skipping on 
Good Friday and marbles Guildford custom 
Custom at St. Bartholomew s Church, London 
Blue-Coat School custom Flogging Judas 
Cornish custom of gathering shell -Jish St. 
David's Day. 

1 HE season of Lent has many customs 
which linger on. It is ushered in by Shrove 
Tuesday, when in ancient times the people 
flocked to the confessional to be shriven, 
or shrove, before the great fast commenced. 
We have nothing in this country which 
corresponds with the Carnival on the Con- 
tinent, although something of the same kind 
of festivity was once practised here, as an old 
writer testifies : 

" Some run about the streets attired like monks, and 

some like kings, 

Accompanied with pomp and guard, and other 
stately things ; 

59 



Old English Customs 



Some like wild beasts do run abroad in skins that 
divers be 

Arrayed, and eke with loathsome shapes, that dread- 
ful are to see ; 

They counterfeit both bears and wolves, and lions 
fierce in sight, : 

And raging bulls ; some play the cranes, with wings 
and stilts upright." 

Our modern carnival is a much less riotous 
proceeding, and generally resolves itself into 
eating pancakes. Shrove Tuesday is often 
called " Pancake Day," and at many places 
a bell is rung which is called " pancake-bell." 
This bell formerly called the faithful to the 
confessional. 

At Culworth, Northamptonshire, and at 
Crowle, Lincolnshire, the pancake-bell may 
still be heard, and also at the pretty village 
of Church Minshull, Cheshire, and at Morley, 
near Leeds, the old custom has been observed 
without intermission for over a hundred 
years. 1 

The children in Berkshire have still their 
rhymes which they sing on this day, and 
receive their accustomed bribes. At Purley 
they say 

" Knick-knock, pan's hot, 
I'm come a-shroving ; 
Bit of bread and a bit of cheese, 
That's better than nothing. 

1 Cf. " Bell Customs." At numerous churches in Leicester- 
shire and Rutlandshire the bell is rung. 
60 



Shrove Tuesday 



Last year's flour's dear 

That's what makes poor Purley children come 
shroving here. 

Hip, hip, hurrah ! 

Up with the pitcher and down with the pan, 
Give me a penny and I'll be gone." 

At Baldon, Oxfordshire, a similar rhyme 
is sung : 

" Pit-a-pat, the pan's hot, 
I be come a-shroving ; 
Catch a fish afore the net, 
That's better than nothing. 
Eggs, lard, and flour's dear, 
This makes me come a-shroving here." 

These rhymes have many variants, which 
need not now be enumerated. They may be 
heard in various forms in all the Southern, 
and Midland counties. Sometimes the shrov- 
ing children have unpleasant ways of signify- 
ing their displeasure should the accustomed 
gift be not forthcoming. This they do by 
throwing stones at the door and singing 

" Skit- scat, skit-scat, 
Take this, and take that," 

or by tying a stone to the door handle. 

The origin of eating pancakes on Shrove 
Tuesday has been much disputed. The fol- 
lowing suggestion by a learned ecclesiastic 
of the Roman Church possibly contains the 
61 



Old English Customs 

explanation of the custom. "When Lent 
was kept by a strict abstinence from meat 
all through the forty days, it was customary 
to use up all the dripping and lard in the 
making of pancakes. To consume all, it 
was usual to call in the apprentice-boys and 
others about the house, and they were sum- 
moned by a bell, which was naturally called 
' pancake-bell.' " * 

An interesting survival of " tossing the 
pancake " exists at Westminster School, and 
is accompanied with several quaint obser- 
vances. The cook, bearing a frying-pan with 
a pancake, is conducted by a verger carrying 
the silver mace from the college kitchen to- 
the great schoolroom, when all the boys are 
assembled. The cook tries to toss the pan- 
cake over an iron bar which runs across the 
schoolroom from one wall to another. If 
the pancake goes clear over, the boys make 
a rush and try each to catch it whole. The 
boy who gets it whole receives a guinea from 
the Dean on showing it in an unbroken con- 
dition. The cook also receives ten shillings 
if he does his part properly. Now-a-days, 
only so many boys join in the struggle for 
the pancake as there are forms in the school. 
Each form names a representative. Formerly 
the whole school made a rush, which was 
rather a dangerous sport, and very wisely the 

1 Notes and Queries, 8th Series, i., March 5, 1892. 
62 



Shrove 'Tuesday 

number of competitors for the prize has 
been limited. 

From Bridestowe, Devonshire, we have 
received a few simple rhymes, written by a 
girl in the village as they are usually sung. 
The words are : 

"Lain crock, pancake, fritter for our labour, 
Dish o' meal, piece of bread, or what you please to 
give me. 

I see by the string 
There's a good thing in ; 
I see by the latch 
There's something to catch. 
Trip a trap tro ! 

Give me my hump and I'll be go. 
Nine times, ten times, men come shroving, 
Pray, dame, something, an apple or a dumpling, 
Or a piece of chuckle cheese of your own making, 
Or a piece of pancake of your own baking. 
Trip a trap tro ! &c." 

In some parts of Wales there is a custom 
of casting thin lead figures of birds and ani- 
mals, which are set up and thrown at by 
boys with chunks of lead on Shrove Tuesday. 
Whatever the shape of the figure may be, it 
is called " a bird." If it is knocked down, 
it becomes the property of the thrower, but 
every chunk of lead that fails to knock down 
a bird is claimed by the owner of the bird. 
This is probably a survival of the ancient 
and cruel sport of threshing the hen, thus 

63 



Old English Customs 

mentioned by Tusser in his " Five Hundred 
Points of Good Husbandry : " 

" Come, go to the barn now, my jolly ploughmen, 
Blindfolded, and speedily thresh the fat hen ; 
And if you can kill her, then give her thy men, 
And go ye on fritters and pancakes dine then." 

Well might a foreign visitor to our shores 
sagely remark that " the English eat a certain 
cake on Shrove Tuesday, upon which they 
immediately run mad and kill their poor 
cocks." 

At Norwich a custom prevails of selling 
at the bakers' and confectioners' shops a small 
currant-loaf called a " coquille," which the 
boys also cry in the streets. A notice at the 
shops runs as follows : " Hot coquilles on 
Tuesday morning at eight o'clock, and in 
the afternoon at four o'clock." Probably the 
word is derived from its shell-like shape 
(jcoquille = shell) ; but another authority con- 
nects it with " coquerell " or cock, and sup- 
poses that the cake was sold when the old 
sport of throwing at cocks was in vogue on 
this day. 

Shrove Tuesday is a day celebrated for its 
famous football encounters, which are not, 
like ordinary games, fought out on a level 
field between goal-posts, but are entirely of 
another character. At Sedgefield the church 
clerk and sexton had, according to imme- 



Football on Shrove Tuesday 

morial custom, to find a ball to be played 
for by the trades-folk and villagers on this 
day. The goal of the former is at the south 
of the village, that of the latter is a pond at 
the north end. The ball is put through the 
bull-ring in the middle of the village. The 
game always begins at one o'clock, and is 
fought out for three or four hours with 
much ferocity. There are no rules of " off- 
side," or of "no charging or hacking allowed." 
All is fair in love or war, and also in the 
old-fashioned football of England and Scot- 
land. At Chester-le-Street they have an 
annual match between the " up-street " and 
" down - street " folk on Shrove Tuesday. 
The contest takes place in the street, the 
windows being all carefully barricaded ; and 
a burn lies in the course of the players, who 
rush into the water, and enjoy a fine scrim- 
mage there. At Alnwick the contest used 
to take place in the street, but the Duke of 
Northumberland instituted an annual match, 
which now takes place in " the Pasture " every 
Shrove Tuesday between the parishioners of 
the two parishes of St. Michael and St. Paul. 
The committee receives the ball at the barbi- 
can of the castle from the porter, and march 
to the field headed by the Duke's piper, 
where the contest takes place, after which a 
fine struggle takes place for the possession 
of the ball. In Scotland, the streets of Duns 

6 S E 



Old English Customs 

are enlivened by a game of handball on 
Fasten E'en. The ball is started in state 
by the lord of the manor, and the goals are 
the kirk and the mill. 

The football on Shrove Tuesday is still 
played at Dorking in the streets, as in the 
days of yore. The tradesmen wisely barri- 
cade their shops, and a collection is made 
during the morning throughout the streets, 
nominally to defray the cost of damages. 
The footballers first parade the streets clad 
in grotesque costumes, and bands of music 
accompany the procession. The football is 
kicked off in the centre of the High Street 
at two o'clock, and all who wish join in the 
game. The play is furious and the ball is 
kicked everywhere, sometimes reaching the 
fields at the outskirts of the town. During 
four hours the contest lasts, and towards the 
end of the struggle there is much excitement 
and vigorous kicking, extremely dangerous 
to the limbs of the competitors. The old 
custom of tolling the pancake-bell during 
the morning has now been discontinued. 

" Clipping of churches " was formerly 
practised in Wiltshire, when the children 
joined hands round the church, walked 
round three times, and repeated the lines 

" Shrove Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, poor Jack went 

to plough, 

His mother made pancakes, she scarcely knew how ; 
66 



Shrove Tuesday 

She tossed them, she turned them, she made them 

so black, 
With soot from the chimney that poisoned poor 

Jack." 

This rhyme was current in Shropshire ten 
years ago, and is probably still existing. 

In Cornwall all the mischief inherent in 
human nature used to be called into play 
on this day. Women rubbed the faces of 
passers-by with sooty hands; people threw 
water over everybody they came into contact 
with ; knockers were wrenched off; gates 
unhung and carried away ; boys prowled the 
streets on " Nickanan Night " with clubs, like 
imps of darkness, beating at doors, and carry- 
ing off whatever they could seize, and many 
other pleasant attentions were paid by friendly 
neighbours in order to keep up old customs 
and to promote the happiness of mankind ! 
Happily these have passed away, and the 
former victims of such pleasantries will not 
regret their departure. 

The voice of rural revelry is hushed during 
\ the first few weeks of Lent, and no popular 
j customs break the stillness of the spring- 
time fast until Mid-Lent Sunday is reached. 
This day has several pleasing associations. 
It is called " Mothering Sunday," and from 
early times it has been the custom for chil- 
dren who were absent from home in service 
to visit their parents on this day. This prac- 
67 



Old English Customs 

tice arose from an ancient ordinance of the 
Church requiring the priests and people to 
visit the mother-church of the district on 
Mothering Sunday, and long ago this eccle- 
siastical custom became generally associated 
with the pleasant gathering of families and 
the renewing of the ties of home life. Her- 
rick sang of this custom in his beautiful 
poem 

" I'll to thee a simnell bring, 
'Gainst thou go'st a mothering ; 
So that when she blesseth thee, 
Half the blessing thou'lt give me." 

It is satisfactory to know that this custom 
of " Merrie England" still prevails in some 
of the rural parts of Gloucestershire and also 
in Radnorshire. At Selsby, near Stroud, the 
servants are accustomed to ask for leave of 
absence on this day, pleading that it is 
Mothering Sunday, and a certain cake coated 
with white and embellished with pink is par- 
taken of. At Wotton-under-Edge, in the 
same county, the festival is observed at the 
" Swan Inn," where cake and wine are pro- 
vided for all the servants, who are allowed 
to bring with them their friends and sweet- 
hearts. In the district of Rossendale Mother- 
ing Sunday is still the day for the gathering 
of scattered members of families, and it is 
customary there to make a " Fag," i.e.) a 
68 



Mothering Sunday 

fig-pie, for this special social entertainment. 
As a family festival the day is observed in 
Leicestershire, and young people flock home- 
wards and eat veal and furmety. 

The day is still observed in Worcester- 
shire. At Stoulton, children return home for 
the day, and often bring a present to their 
parents ; and often families make a point of 
attending church. Veal is the appointed 
viand of the day, and consequently it is in 
great demand. 

This Sunday is also called Simnel Sunday, 
so named from the special cakes eaten on 
that day. The word Simnel is derived from 
the Latin word simila? signifying fine wheat- 
flour, and not from the fictitious personages 
Simon and Nell whom popular tradition has 
credited with the manufacture of the first 
Simnel. Even Lambert Simnel, the preten- 
der, who was by trade a baker, has been 
credited with the invention. Bury, in Lan- 
cashire, is the great place for these cakes, 
which often resemble the largest wedding- 
cake, and the custom of eating them on this 
day is prevalent throughout Lancashire. The 
streets of Bury used to be blocked with stalls, 
on which were displayed simnels of various 
sorts, and crowds assembled from all the sur- 
rounding neighbourhood. 

Passion Sunday, the second before Easter, 

1 Cf. German word Semmel, signifying a roll of best bread. 

69 



Old English Customs 

is also called Care Sunday, according to the 
old Nottinghamshire rhyme 

" Care Sunday, care away, 
Palm Sunday and Easter Day." 

Why it is so named is a disputed question. 
Some derive it from the word karr^ signi- 
fying a satisfaction for a debt, alluding to 
the satisfaction made by our Saviour ; others 
connect it with carl or ceorl, meaning a 
husbandman. 1 At any rate, the custom of 
eating " carling peas," ?'.., peas fried in butter 
with vinegar and pepper, exists still in York- 
shire and Northumberland. 

Palm Sunday has several interesting customs 
which commemorate the triumphant entry of 
our Lord into Jerusalem, when the people 
took branches of palm-trees and scattered 
them in the way. In Wiltshire " palms," or 
branches of willow and hazel, are carried to 
Martinsell, a hill near Marlborough. A 
curious game is usually played there on this 
day, consisting in hitting a ball gradually up 
the steep slope of the hill to the summit 
with crooked sticks. A line of boys with 
bandy or hockey sticks in their hands are 
ranged on the northern side of the hill, one 
above the other ; they hit or " pass " a ball 
up from one boy to the other till it reaches 

1 The derivation of c are has been much disputed. Cf. Hamp- 
son's " Med. CEvi. Kalend.," and Dyer's "Popular Customs." 
70 



Palm Sunday 

the last boy, who knocks it to the top, 
whence it falls to the bottom of the hill and 
the game recommences. A similar game is 
played at Roundway Hill. 

In very many places " palms " are worn on 
Palm Sunday. In some villages it is known 
as " Fig Sunday." At Edlesborough, Buck- 
inghamshire, the children procure figs, and 
nearly every house has a fig-pudding. For 
some days beforehand the shop-windows of 
the neighbouring town of Dunstable are full 
of figs, and on Palm Sunday crowds go 
to the top of Dunstable Downs, one of the 
highest points in the neighbourhood, and 
eat figs. Nor is this custom confined to 
Buckinghamshire ; until quite lately people 
used to assemble on Silbury Hill on the same 
Sunday and eat figs, and fig-puddings were 
much in vogue. 

The custom of observing "Fig Sunday" 
prevails in the counties of Bedford, Bucks, 
Hertford, Northampton, Oxford, Wilts, and 
North Wales. At Kempton, in Hertford- 
shire, it has long been the custom for the 
people to eat figs " keep warsel " and make 
merry with their friends on Palm Sunday. 
More figs are sold in the shops on the few 
days previous to the festival than in all the 
year beside. Probably it is connected with 
the withering of the barren fig-tree, the 
account of which immediately follows the 



Old English Customs 

narrative of the triumphal entry into Jeru- 
salem. 

Amongst the Irish Roman Catholics the 
Wednesday in Holy Week is known as Spy 
Wednesday, the spy being Judas, who be- 
trayed our Lord. 1 The Thursday in Holy 
Week, commonly called Maundy Thursday, 
is observed at Court by the presentation of 
the royal Maundy gifts to poor people. 2 A 
full account of the ceremony is given in the 
chapter relating to Court Customs. The 
word Maundy is derived from the Latin word 
mandatum? and refers to the command of 
our Lord to His Apostles to imitate His 
example in the humility which He showed 
in washing the feet of His disciples. 

Good Friday has very many customs con- 
nected with it which abound in interest. 
Every one is familiar with the practice of 
eating hot cross buns on this day, and 
the well-known rhyme, which has several 
variants 

" One a penny, two a penny, 

Hot cross buns ; 
If you have no daughters, 
Give them to your sons ; 

But if you have none of these merry little elves, 
Then you may keep them all for yourselves." 

1 Notes and Queries. 2 Cf. "Court Customs," p. 257. 

8 According to Archdeacon Nares, Maundy is derived from 
the maund, a corruption of the Saxon rnand, a basket. 
72 



Hot Cross Buns 

This custom is as old as the Romans, who 
were accustomed to present to their gods 
consecrated bread. Two loaves were dis- 
covered at Herculaneum marked by a cross. 
The Romans divided their sacred cakes with 
lines intersecting each other at right angles, 
and called the quarters quadra? The cross 
on the buns eaten on Good Friday now has 
another meaning. 

In Worcestershire hot cross buns made 
on this day are supposed never to become 
mouldy, and a loaf made and baked on 
Good Friday, and hung in the kitchen, averts 
ill-luck, and when grated is an excellent 
remedy for various illnesses. 

Much has been written concerning the 
origin of hot cross buns. The Romans 
made their sacred cakes in honour of Diana, 
whose festival was observed soon after the 
vernal equinox. The original home of the 
custom, where it is chiefly observed, is Cam- 
bridgeshire and Hertfordshire. There the 
old Roman roads the Ickneld Street and 
the Armynge Street crossed. There stood 
in Roman times the altar of Diana of the 
Crossways, to whom the Romans offered 
their sacred cakes. There, too, the custom 
of eating hot cross buns is chiefly observed, 
whereas in many parts of England (e.g., Bath) 

1 Northall's " English Folk-Rhymes." Cf. Virgil, &n. bk. vii.; 
Martial, bk. iii. Epig. 77. 

73 



Old English Customs 

they are quite unknown. This is a curious 
survival of the Roman times. 

The strange custom of skipping on Good 
Friday prevails at Brighton, though it is 
rapidly falling into disuse. Twenty years 
ago the whole fishing community engaged 
in this amusement during the whole day. It 
was generally practised with a long rope, 
from six to ten grown-up people skipping 
at one rope. Five years ago an elderly man 
was observed indulging in this pastime, and 
the day is known as " Long Rope Day." 

Playing marbles on Good Friday is also a 
curious local custom practised in nearly all 
the Sussex villages by both boys and men. 
It is considered quite as wrong to omit this 
solemn duty as to go without the Christmas 
pudding or to neglect any other imperative 
observance. No one knows why tfo^play/ 
marbles on Good Friday. 

No one knows why the good people of 
Guildford, Surrey, make a pilgrimage to St. 
Martha's Hill on Good Friday, where, on one 
of the most beautiful spots in Surrey, near the 
old Norman church, crowds collect and pass 
the time in singing and dancing. The latter 
have been discontinued during recent years; 
still many people flock thither, but they are 
chiefly the old folks who make this pilgrim- 
age. St. Martha's Church is an old pilgrim 
church, whither the faithful used to go when 
74 



Old City Customs 

they were on their way to the shrine of St. 
Thomas of Canterbury. Martha's Hill is 
said to be a corruption of Martyr's Hill, and 
the visit of the Guildford folk to this spot 
is, doubtless, a relic of some ancient religious 
ceremony or pilgrimage. 

Old customs die hard in the City of Lon- 
don. In the parish of St. Bartholomew the 
Great, twenty-one aged widows receive on 
Good Friday the means wherewith to re- 
member the piety of a nameless benefactor. 
According to time-honoured custom, they 
attend service in the parish church, then walk 
in procession to the long-disused graveyard 
adjoining, and proceed to pick off a parti- 
cular tombstone a new sixpence, deposited 
there by the churchwarden ; and finally, on 
leaving the scene of this quaint ceremony, 
are presented with a hot cross bun. Any 
widow who is incapable through the stiffness 
of her joints to pick up the coin is not en- 
titled to receive it. The name of the pious 
citizen has been lost, as all the records of the 
period were destroyed in the Great Fire. The 
fund from which this bequest is derived has 
unfortunately been diverted, but by the liber- 
ality of a civic antiquary the custom is pre- 
served, and the poor widows still receive their 
sixpence. Another quaint ceremony is re- 
gularly performed on Good Friday. Three 
hundred years ago, Peter Symonds, a worthy 

75 



Old English Customs 

Londoner of the days of Queen Elizabeth, 
devised a sum of money to be bestowed on 
Good Friday to the youngest boys of the 
Blue-Coat School, in the shape of sixty new 
pennies and sixty packets of raisins. The 
children and poor of the City parishes also 
benefit by the same will, and the money used 
to be given over the tomb of the donor, 
until the railway in Liverpool Street effaced 
the spot. 

The curious custom of flogging Judas 
Iscariot, though not an English practice, 
may be witnessed in any of our ports, if any 
Portuguese or South American vessels are 
in the harbour. An effigy is made of the 
Betrayer, which is ducked in the dock, and 
then kicked and lashed with knotted ropes, 
amid the shouts and the singing of a weird, 
rude chant by the spectators. 

In the far west an old Cornish custom 
still survives at St. Constantine. On Good 
Friday crowds flock to Helford River to 
gather shellfish (limpets, cockles, &c.). This 
gathering of shellfish on Good Friday, usually 
winkles from the sea, was once very pre- 
valent all over the county. The origin of 
this custom I dare not attempt to determine. 
(Folk- Lore. ) 

March ist is St. David's Day, a festival 
dear to all patriotic Welshmen. The wear- 
ing and eating of the leek is a common form 
76 



St. David's Day 

of designating the true Taffy. In the chap- 
ter on army customs we have mentioned 
some of the quaint ceremonies of the Welsh 
Fusileers on this day. At Jesus College, 
Oxford, much frequented by Welshmen, the 
undergraduates wear leeks, and the Fellows 
usually have a dinner, at which the guests 
wear artificial leeks in their button-holes. 



77 



CHAPTER IV 

Easter customs Pace eggs Clapping for eggs 
in Wales Pace-egg play Biddenden custom 
Kentish pudding-pies Hallaton hare-pie and 
bottle kicking School customs St. Mark's Day 
and ghosts Custom at St. Mary's, Woolnoth 
Hocktide at Hungerford All Fools' Day. 

1 HE Feast of the Resurrection is remark- 
able for the almost universal practice of 
giving Pace eggs. The word Pace is de- 
rived from Pasche or Paschal, and we find 
it under the various forms of pas, pays, 
pasce, pask, pasch, passhe, and many others. 
The imagination of some antiquarians has 
caused them to see in the Paschal egg a 
symbol or emblem of the Resurrection, and 
to pronounce the custom to be of Christian 
origin. But it is far older than Christianity, 
and is common to Norse nations. In the 
old sagas the earth was symbolised by an 
egg ; in the ancient worship of Baal eggs 
played a part ; and in all probability the 
Christian teachers, finding that the people 
were devoted to the custom, diverted from 
it the old heathen notions and attached to 
it Christian ideas and beliefs. Egyptians, 

78 



Pace Eggs 

Persians, Greeks, and Romans all shared in 
the symbolical use of eggs, and the Parsees 
even now distribute red eggs at their spring 
festival. Old Pace eggs in our own country 
were hard-boiled and dyed with various colours, 
with names and " sentiments " imprinted on 
them. They were dyed with logwood, onion 
skins, pieces of coloured rags, and furze 
flowers, and yellow, violet, and pink were 
the common colours. Now aniline dyes are 
used. Formerly the eggs were blessed by a 
priest. In Yorkshire the children roll their 
highly-coloured eggs against one another in 
fields and gardens. The lads buy eggs and 
press them in the streets against each other. 

In Anglesey, North Wales, the children 
go from house to house from the Monday 
to the Saturday during Easter Week, clapping 
until the door is opened to them. Formerly 
they used to recite the following lines : 

" Clap, clap, dau tfy 
I hogyn bach ar y plwy," 

the literal meaning of which is, " Clap, clap, 
(give) two eggs to little lad on parish." 

The custom is not confined to poor chil- 
dren, as the children of well-to-do parents 
join in the practice. 1 When no eggs are 
forthcoming, each child receives a penny. 

1 By the kindness of Lady Read I have in my possession a 
clapper which was used in the parish of Llanfechall last Easter. 

79 



Old English Customs 

In Carnarvonshire the custom is but a 
memory ; eighty years ago the clerk of 
the parish used to go round with a basket 
collecting Easter eggs, accompanied by boys 
clapping. 

This custom was not confined to Wales. 
In Lancashire and Cheshire the custom of 
Pace-egging is very common. " Please, good 
dame, an Aister egg," is heard everywhere, 
but money is now frequently given in place 
of eggs. At Wilmslow the old rhyme used 
to be 

" Please Mr. 

Please give us an Easter egg. 
If you do not give us one, 
Your hen shall lay an addled one, 
Your cock shall lay a stone." 

The boys roll the eggs like bowls, and at 
Preston Park hundreds of people may be seen 
engaged in rolling eggs down the grassy slope. 

In Northumberland, when a man asks a 
woman for an egg, if she refuses, he takes 
off her boots until she pays a penalty. If 
a man refuses to give a woman a Pace-egg, 
she snatches away his cap, and will not restore 
it until he pays a money forfeit. 

Easter eggs were in mediaeval times blessed 

by the priest, and this form of benediction 

was authorised by Pope Paul V. : " Bless, 

Lord, we beseech Thee, this Thy creature of 

80 



Pace Eggs 

eggs, that it may become a wholesome sus- 
tenance to Thy faithful servants, eating it in 
thankfulness to Thee, on account of the 
resurrection of our Lord." The red dye 
used to colour the egg was supposed to 
allude to the blood of the redemption. 

In connection with Pace-egging there is 
the Pace-egg or Easter play, which resembles 
in its main features the Christmas mumming 
play. In this piece of ancient drama folk- 
lorists see a relic of old Norse mythology 
the contest of Thor and Balder, of spring 
with winter. Beau Slasher is the champion 
of winter, and his iron head, steel body, and 
hands and feet made of knuckle-bones, are 
descriptive of the frost-bound earth. These 
interpretations seem somewhat fanciful. 

Biddenden, a quiet and retired Kentish 
village, presents every Easter the same 
spectacle on a larger scale that it did on 
Paschal Sunday about the time of the Nor- 
man Conquest. At the beginning of the 
twelfth century there lived in Biddenden two 
twin-sisters Eliza and Mary Chalkhurst 
who were the precursors of the Siamese 
Twins. 1 They were joined together in the 

1 One of these cakes is engraved in Ducarel's ' ' Repertory of 
the Dioceses of Canterbury and Rochester," 1782, p. 137 ; and 
another pattern is given in Hone's " Every-Day Book," vol. ii. 
p. 443. Hasted regards the notion that the sisters were joined 
together as a vulgar tradition arising from the figures on the 
cakes, and says that their real name was Preston. 

8l F 



Old English Customs 

back by two ligaments, and after they had 
passed a joint existence of thirty-five years 
one of them died. The other was advised 
to have the cords of unity dissevered, but 
she refused, saying, "As we came together, 
so also shall we go together." Six hours 
afterwards she died. By their will they 
bequeathed to the churchwardens of the 
parish certain lands, of which the rents were 
to be devoted to supplying the poor with 
doles of bread and cheese every Easter 
Sunday. The income now amounts to about 
^"40. Visitors from neighbouring places 
flock to the village, which is turned into 
a kind of fair, after the services in the 
church have been celebrated by the vicar. 
There are two distributions under the will of 
the united sisters. In the first place, a thou- 
sand hard-baked rolls, each stamped with 
a representation of the foundresses of the 
feast, are distributed among visitors who 
may be in want of refreshment. They are 
very durable, as they are as hard as wood, 
and may be kept as curiosities for twenty 
years. The second distribution consists of 
loaves and cheese, and is limited to the 
poor of the village. One of the church- 
wardens sits at a little window of the work- 
house, and to each of the poor parishioners 
who march past in single file he hands a 
loaf and a large piece of cheese. The 
82 



Hare- Scramble 

ceremony finished, many of the visitors 
attempt to soften their cakes in Kentish 
ale, and pass the rest of the day in old- 
world conviviality. Biddenden then resumes 
its accustomed quietude until the memory of 
the twin-sisters is again celebrated. 

The " Kentish men " still eat pudding- 
pies at Easter, a kind of flat tart with a 
raised crust to hold a small quantity of 
custard, with currants sprinkled over its 
surface. Bands of young folk used to roam 
the countryside provided with this form of 
refreshment on the Monday and Tuesday of 
Easter Week. {Kentish Express.} 

Another curious observance is the Halla- 
ton Hare-scramble and Bottle-kicking, which 
takes place annually on Easter Monday. 
An eye-witness shall describe the strange 
scene : " The origin of the custom associ- 
ated with the hare-pie scramble is lost in 
the mists of antiquity, and may be a relic 
of mediaeval times, similar to the old 
' Whipping Toms ' in Leicester, put down 
in I847. 1 At all events, at a remote period 
a piece of land was bequeathed to the rector, 
conditionally that he and his successors 

1 "Whipping Toms" was a rough pastime which required 
the aid of an Act of Parliament to suppress it. After a 
hockey match the young men armed themselves with long 
cart-whips, and proceeded to whip any one passing through 
the precincts of Leicester Castle, unless they received a fee from 
their victim. 

83 



Old English Customs 

provided annually two hare-pies, a quantity 
of ale, and two dozen penny loaves, to be 
scrambled for on each succeeding Easter 
Monday at the rising ground called Hare- 
pie Bank, about a quarter of a mile south 
of the village. Of course, hares being out 
of season at this time of the year, pies of 
mutton, veal, and bacon are substituted. A 
benevolent rector of the last century made 
an effort to have the funds applied to a 
better use ; but the village wags were equal 
to the occasion, and raised the cry, and 
chalked on his walls and door, as well as 
on the church, * No pie, no parson, and 
a job for the glazier.' Other subsequent 
efforts alike failed. Easter Monday at Hal- 
laton is the great carnival of the year. The 
two benefit societies hold their anniversary 
at the * Royal Oak' and the 'Fox Inn, 1 
and bands accompany the processions to the 
parish church, where the ' club sermon ' is 
preached. After dinner at the inns, a 
deputation is sent to the rectory for the 
* pies and beer,' and then the procession is 
formed in the following order : 

"Two men abreast, carrying two sacks 
with the pies cut up. 

" Three men abreast, carrying aloft a bottle 

each ; two of these are filled with beer ; they 

are ordinary field wood bottles, but without 

the usual mouth, iron-hooped all over, with 

84 



Hare-Scramble 

a hole left for drinking from ; the third is 
a dummy. Occasionally a hare is carried, 
in a sitting posture, mounted on the top of 
a pole. 

" The procession increases greatly in num- 
bers as it approaches Hare-pie Bank, where the 
pies are pitched out of the sack and scrambled 
for. The spectators amuse themselves by 
throwing the contents of the pies at each 
other. Then follows the well-known ' Hal- 
laton bottle-kicking.' One of the large 
bottles containing ale is thrown into the 
circular hollow on the mound, and the 
' Medbourne men/ or other villagers who 
care to join in the sport, try to wrest the 
bottle from the Hallatonian grasp. A fierce 
contest then ensues, in comparison with 
which a football scrimmage is mere child's 
play. It is useless to describe the battle 
that ensues, the Hallatonians striving to kick 
the bottle to their boundary-line over the 
brook adjoining the village, while their oppo- 
nents endeavour to convey it towards the 
Medbourne boundary. The victors of course 
claim the contents of the bottle. Then ' the 
dummy ' is fought for with unabated zest, 
for the Hallaton people boast that this has 
never been wrested from them. The third 
bottle is taken in triumph to the market- 
cross and its contents drunk with accustomed 
honours. The bottles are carefully kept 

85 



Old English Customs 

from year to year, and those now in use have 
done duty for more than thirty years." 

The author of the " Folk-lore of Leicester- 
shire " in an able paper 2 has shown a connec- 
tion between the Christian festival of Easter 
and the worship or sacrifice of hares. Certain 
evidence of this exists here in England. At 
Coleshill, Warwickshire, it used to be custo- 
mary for the young men of the parish to try 
to catch a hare before ten o'clock on Easter 
Monday and bring it to the parson ; if they 
were successful, the parson was bound to give 
them a calf s-head and a hundred of eggs for 
their breakfast and a groat in money. 

The custom of hunting the hare at Leicester 
on Easter Monday also supports the theory, 
on which day the mayor and his brethren in 
their scarlet gowns, attended by their proper 
officers, used to go to Black-Annis' Bower 
Close and witness the diversion of hunting 
a hare. But as unfortunately there was no 
hare to be hunted, the sport degenerated into 
trailing a dead cat soaked in aniseed water 
before a pack of hounds, amidst the shouts 
of the spectators. This early form of drag- 
hunting has been long ago abandoned, but 
an annual fair on the Danes' Hills and the 
Fosse Road, held on Easter Monday, has 

1 "County Folk-lore: Leicestershire and Rutland," by C. J. 
Billson, 1895. 

2 Folk-Lore, December 1892. 

86 



Hare-Scramble 

preserved until recent years the traces of the 
Leicester hare-hunt. 

The writer, Mr. Billson, brings forward 
much evidence to prove that " the hare was 
originally a totem, or divine animal, among 
the local aborigines, and that the customs 
at Leicester and Hallaton are relics of the 
religious procession and annual sacrifice of 
the god." He also sees in the " bottle- 
kicking " a relic of the " carrying out 
Death," which is practised in some form in 
many European countries. Something is 
taken to represent Death, a log of wood 
or a figure of straw; this is carried out of 
the village and destroyed in some way. 
This ceremony usually takes place in the 
spring, signifying the destruction of winter, 
the symbol of Death. Then on Easter 
Monday at Ashton-under-Lyne there is the 
custom of " Riding the Black Lad;" in 
which case the effigy of a black boy, after 
being carried round the town and shot at, 
is finally burned. 1 The whole subject is 
full of interest, and we refer our readers to 
Mr. Billson's article, as we are now con- 
cerned more with the account of existing 
customs rather than deductions from them. 

School customs are always full of interest. 
Many have died, especially at Eton, where one 
would have imagined they would be scrupu- 

1 "Denham Tracts," vol. i., Folk-Lore Society, 1891. 

87 



Old English Customs 

lously observed. An ancient usage prevails at 
Christ's Hospital, London, on Easter Tues- 
day, when the boys visit the Mansion House, 
and receive from the Lord Mayor the custo- 
mary Easter gifts. Coins fresh from the mint 
are given to the boys : to each Grecian one 
guinea, to the Junior Grecians half-a-guinea, 
to the monitors half-a-crown, while the rank 
and file receive one shilling. Buns are given 
to each boy, and also a glass of lemonade in- 
stead of the wine which they received formerly . 
In a Northern grammar-school the boys used 
to attend the ceremony of the installation of 
the Mayor, and were regaled with punch and 
buns. Moreover, they were obliged to sin 
against grammar as well as temperance prin- 
ciples, for they were called upon to drink 
the toast 

" Prosperation (sic) 
To the Corporation." 

The toast and the punch and the custom have 
been discontinued during the last twenty 
years. The Christ's Hospital boys, after the 
ceremony, accompany the Lord Mayor and 
the Corporation of the City of London to 
Christ's Church, Newgate Street, where the 
Spital sermon is preached. This used to be 
called the Second Spital Sermon, the first 
being preached on the Monday; but this has 
been discontinued. 

88 



School Customs 

The old Eton Montem has been dead some 
years, and was last celebrated in 1 844. It was 
a procession of the scholars, dressed either 
in military or fancy costume, to the mons, 
or Salt-hill, where they levied a tax, called 
" salt," on all comers. Some relics of this 
custom are preserved in the observances on the 
famous Fourth of June, when the members of 
the Boats, and especially the coxswains, wear 
extraordinary dresses, said to be captains' and 
midshipmen's uniforms. The old Montem is 
supposed to be connected with the boy-bishop, 
and originally took place on the Feast of St. 
Nicholas. 

On the eve of the Feast of St. Mark 
(April 25th), Yorkshire folk sit and watch 
in the porches of churches from 1 1 P.M. to 
i A.M. It is supposed that the ghosts of 
all who will die during the following year 
pass into the church. People sometimes say 
in case of the illness of a neighbour, that he 
will not recover as his ghost was seen last St. 
Martin's Eve; and sometimes this supersti- 
tion has caused death, on account of the terror 
which the prophecy inspired. (Folk-Lore.} 

A curious custom is observed at Easter 
at St. Mary Woolnoth, Lombard Street, 
London. As the congregation leave the 
church, an Easter egg, coloured, and with 
the words " My Redeemer " written on it, is 
presented to every one. 



Old English Customs 

" Heaving " is, we believe, quite extinct. 
Many men little past middle age can re- 
member how on Easter Monday the men 
used to lift the women whom they met 
thrice above their heads, and the women 
responded on Easter Tuesday and lifted the 
men. In spite of many inquiries, we can find 
no evidence 1 of the continued existence of 
this custom, which prevailed greatly in the 
North of England, and also in Wales, War- 
wickshire, and Shropshire. 

A fortnight after Easter comes the once 
famous Hock-tide, a very popular festival 
in former days, but now little observed. 
Only in one town have some of the humours 
of Hock-tide been preserved. Hungerford, 
Berks, still maintains its ancient and curious 
customs, which not even the new District 
and Parish Councils Act has been able to 
affect. Hungerford is an old-world town, 
governed, not by a mayor and town-council, 
like other modern mushroom corporations, 
but by a high constable, assisted by a port- 
reeve, bailiff, tything or tutti men, hayward, 
&c. Moreover, John of Gaunt was the great 
patron of the town, and gave it a wonderful 
horn, upon the safe preservation of which the 

1 As late as the year 1883 a relic of this custom was observed 
at Norton, Cheshire, where a man entered a house to "lift" 
the wife of the owner. The latter objected, and summoned 
the observer of old customs, who had to pay the costs of the 
prosecution. 

9 



Hock-tide in Hungerford 

rights of the town depend. The proceedings 
of Hock-tide commence with the watercress 
supper at the hotel of the " John o' Gaunt," 
consisting of black broth, welsh rabbit, mac- 
caroni, and salad, accompanied by bowls 
of punch. During the meal the affairs of 
the township are discussed. On Tuesday, 
" Hockney Day," the proceedings com- 
mence by the town-crier blowing from the 
balcony of the town-hall the ancient horn, 
the gift of John of Gaunt. The Hock-tide 
Court assemble, the jury is sworn, the names 
of the free suitors are called over by the 
town-clerk, and the commoners summoned 
to " save their commons " for the ensuing 
year. Various officers are elected, including 
the water-bailiff, hall-keeper, hayward, ale- 
tasters, &c. The tything or tutti 1 men 
visit the residence of the high constable, and 
are invested with the emblems of office. 
Their duties consist of calling upon the 
commoners, and demanding from the men 
a coin, and from the women a kiss, and pre- 
senting every person in the house with 
an orange. Kissing evidently does not al- 
ways go by favour, especially at Hunger- 
ford during Hock-tide. The collection of 
pennies is a simple matter, and a large 
majority of the ladies usually submit to the 

1 So called from their poles, wreathed with tutties or posies 
of flowers. 

9 1 



Old English Customs 

ancient usage of the old town ; but many 
hide themselves until all danger of a visit 
from the tutti men is passed, and bolts and 
bars often check the advances of the favoured 
official. A luncheon is given by the high 
constable at the "Three Swans/' during the 
progress of which the boys and girls of the 
town scramble for money and oranges thrown 
to them from the windows. In addition to 
these remarkable survivals of old customs 
there is the " Sandin Fee Court," when the 
list of " Rescients " is read, and regulations 
made for the feeding of cattle on the marsh. 
After another dinner the court leet is held, 
and in the evening the constable's banquet, 
when his worship sits in a beautiful old 
carved ebony chair beneath the shade of the 
famous John o' Gaunt's horn, which is sus- 
pended between the two tutti poles. The 
last toast of the evening is " To the memory 
of John o' Gaunt," which is drunk in solemn 
silence as the clock strikes the hour of 
midnight. The Hock-tide proceedings are 
brought to a close by the constable, feofers, 
and other officers attending divine service in 
the parish church. The municipal customs 
of Hungerford are a curious and interesting 
survival, and we hope that they may long 
retain their peculiar usages. 

The duties of the tything or tutti men 
remind one of the ancient " gatherings " 
92 



April Fool's Day 

once universally practised at Hock-tide, and 
supposed to be held in memory of the vic- 
tory of our Saxon forefathers over the Danes. 
The custom was for the men to traverse the 
streets with ropes, and stop and bind all 
the women they met, releasing them on pay- 
ment of a small ransom. On the Tuesday in 
Hock-tide the women retaliated and bound 
the men ; but this custom is now quite 
obsolete. 1 

The spirit of mischief inherent in human 
nature prevents youths and maidens from 
forgetting the due observance of All Fools 1 
Day (April 1st). Why people should be 
sent on foolish errands and be made the 
subjects of harmless jokes on this day, it is 
difficult to conjecture. Nor is the custom 
confined to one country. In France the vic- 
tim is called un poisson d'Avril (an April 
fish), and in Scotland a gowk or cuckoo; 
while in India the same practice prevails. 
It is supposed to be connected with the 
popular celebration of the advent of the 
vernal equinox, though some writers have 
suggested that poisson is a corruption of 
Passion, and that the mock trial of our 
Saviour is in some way referred to. Pro- 
bably it is a remnant of the old New Year's 
Day festivities, which commenced on March 
25th and ended on April ist. To decide 

1 Cf. "Old English Sports," by P. H. Ditchfield, p. 42. 

93 



Old English Customs 

the vexed question of the origin of All 
Fools' Day is almost as vain as to hunt the 
gowk, which, according to the old rhyme, 
was the fruitless sport assigned to foolish 
folk : 

" On the first day of April 
Hunt the gowk another mile." * 

Still the ingenuity of mankind is taxed on 
this day to make April fools until the hour 
of twelve strikes, when the sport is no longer 
legitimate. It were well if fools and folly 
could be confined to this brief period of 
existence. 

1 Dr. Giuseppe Pitri has published a monograph on this sub- 
ject entitled // Pesce cTAprile (1891), which may well attract 
the attention of the curious. The learned author states that 
" there is scarcely any popular tradition of which the origin is 
so obscure." 



94 



CHAPTER V 

May Day customs Magdalen College, Oxford 
Sweeps at Oxford and Cheltenham Bampton 
customs Charlton, Clifton, and Witney, Oxon 
Edlesborough, Bucks Hawick customs Saltash, 
Cornwall Minehead and Lancashire, Leicester- 
shire, Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Northants cus- 
toms Old Maypole still standing Gawthorpe, 
Yorks St. Mary Cray. 

Jr ROM ancient times May Day has ever 
been the great rural festival, when the May- 
pole was erected on every village green and 
spring was ushered in with all the merriness 
of simple rustic revelry. In recent times we 
have witnessed a revival of the crowning of 
May Queens and of children dancing around 
Maypoles. The old ceremonies are closely 
imitated, but they lack the spontaneity of the 
ancient rural festivals, and we are concerned 
now with the actual survivals of old customs, 
rather than any modern imitations of the 
same. In many old-world villages and towns 
we find still the old May Day ceremonies 
lingering on, and some of these we will visit, 
and describe how the rustics still continue to 
" usher in the May." 

At Oxford the custom of singing the May / * 

95 



Old English Customs 

Morning Hymn on the summit of the tower 
of Magdalen College by the choristers is 
regularly observed. 

This is said to have taken the place of 
a requiem mass which in pre-Reformation 
days was performed on the same spot for 
the* repose of the soul of Henry VII. The 
following are the words of the hymn : 

" Te Deum Patrem colimus, 
Te laudibus prosequimur, 
Qui corpus cibo reficis 
Coelesti mentem gratia. 

Te adoramus, O Jesu ! 
Te, Fill unigenite ! 
Tu, qui non dedignatus es 
Subire claustra Virginis. 

Actus in crucem factus es, 
Irato Deo victima ; 
Per te, Salvator unice, 
Vitse spes nobis rediit. 

Tibi, seterne Spiritus, 
Cujus afflatu peperit 
Infantem Deum Maria, 
Sternum benedicimus. 

Triune Deus, hominum 
Salutis Auctor optime, 
Immensum hoc mysterium 
Ovanti lingua canimus." 

About 150 persons are usually present, and 
as the hour of five strikes the choir com- 



May Day Customs 

mence to sing the hymn. In the street and 
on the bridge a large crowd of spectators 
assemble, many of whom blow horns and 
other hideous-sounding instruments, and at 
the conclusion of the hymn they disperse for 
the accustomed country-walk. 

In the same city on May Day garlands are 
borne along the streets, and a " Jack-in-the- 
Green," with the accompaniment of about a 
dozen fantastically dressed men and women, 
is often seen. This procession is formed by 
the Sweeps, and consists of the following 
personages : 

1. Jack-in-the-Green. 

2. A "Lord" and "Lady," who are 

dressed in white and decorated 
with ribbons. The "Lady" carries 
a ladle, and the " Lord " a frying- 
pan. 

3. A " Fool," dressed as fantastically as 

possible, who carries a bladder on 
a string, wherewith to belabour the 
bystanders. 

4. A fiddler. 

5. Two or three men who carry money- 

boxes. 

6. A man with shovel and poker, which 

he uses as musical instruments. 

The whole party, except the " Lady," have 
their faces blackened, and are decked with 
97 G 



Old English Customs 

ribbons and flowers. They sing the follow- 
ing song : 

" Please to remember the chimney-sweeps ; 
Please, kind sir, don't pass us by ; 
We're old sweeps and want a living, 
Spare us a copper as in olden time." 

The chimney-sweeps of Cheltenham also 
hold high revels on May Day. The dancers 
have their faces blacked, and their band con- 
sists of a fiddle and tin-whistle. The centre 
of the group is formed by a large bush, or 
hollow cone bedecked with leaves, out of 
which peers the face of Jack-i'-the-Green. 
The dresses of the attendants are red, blue, 
and yellow, and they dance around the bush. 
The leader of the party is the clown, who 
wears a tall hat with a flapping crown, and a 
fantastical dress, and "fancies himself" greatly. 
There is also a man with a fool's cap, and 
black figures fastened on his white pinafore, 
and the representation of a gridiron. Two 
boys complete the group, one wearing a girl's 
hat adorned with flowers. They levy contri- 
butions by holding out iron ladles or spoons, 
and strike the bystanders with bladders fas- 
tened to a stick. Their performance consists 
in dancing and roaring. The Cambridge 
sweeps evidently used to have a similar festi- 
val, as the children still go round with a doll, 
hung in the midst of a hoop wreathed with 
flowers, singing the ditty 



May Day Customs 

" The first of May is garland day, 
And chimney-sweepers' dancing day ; 
Curl your locks as I do mine, 
One before and one behind." 

At Bampton, Oxon, up to within forty or 
fifty years ago, a party of children used to 
go round the town on May Day, dressed in 
white, with red, white, and blue ribbons 
(these are now the colours of the Club). 
A boy, called the " Lord," carried a stick 
dressed with ribbons and flowers, which was 
called a " sword," and a collecting-box for 
pence. Two girls, known as the " Lady " 
and her " Maid," carried on a stick between 
them the "garland," which was made of 
two hoops crossed, and covered with moss, 
flowers, and ribbons. The " Lady " also 
carried a " mace," a square piece of board 
mounted on a short staff, on the top of 
which were sweet-smelling herbs under a 
muslin cover, decorated with red, white, and 
blue ribbons and rosettes. The " Lord " and 
"Lady" were accompanied by a "Jack-in- 
the-Green." From time to time the "Lady" 
sang the following words : 

" Ladies and gentlemen, 
I wish you a happy May ; 
Please smell my mace 
And kiss my face, 
And then we'll show our garland." 

99 



Old English Customs 

After the words " kiss my face," it was 
the " Lord's " duty to kiss the " Lady," and 
then to hand round his money-box. This 
custom has been almost discontinued on 
May Day for many years past, but is kept 
up, without the Jack-in-the-Green, at the 
Club Feast on Whit-Monday. 

At Charlton-on-Otmoor, Oxon, on May 
morning a procession used to start from the 
vicarage, headed by two men carrying a large 
garland of flowers on a stick. With them 
went six morris-dancers, a fool or " Squire," 
who carried a bladder and a money-box, and 
a man who played the pipe and tabour. At 
the end of the day, after the dancing was 
over, the garland was taken to the church, 
and hung up on the rood-screen in place of 
_the rood, where it was left till the next May 
Day, when it was taken down and redressed. 
The procession and dancing has been given 
up since 1857, but the garland is still dressed 
every May Day, and put upon the screen. 

At Witney they still have a Jack-in-the- 
Green, a man enclosed in a bower made in 
the shape of a pyramid about ten feet high. 
He is accompanied by various attendants, one 
bearing a drum or a triangle, and another a 
large silver ladle for the reception of the 
monies of the spectators. 

At Clifton, near Deddington, Oxon, a 
number of boys and girls go round with a 
100 



May Day Customs 

garland, carried between two of them on a 
stick, and sing the following song : 

" Good morning, ladies and gentlemen ; 

I wish you a happy day ; 
I'm come to show my garland, 
Because it's the First of May. 

A bunch of May I have brought you, 

And at your door it stands ; 
It is but a spray, but it's well spread about, 

'Tis the work of our God's hands. 1 

And now I've sung my little short song, 

No longer can I stay ; 
God bless you all, both great and small, 

And grant you a very happy May." 

On May Day, at Spelsbury, the school 
children go in procession, with a garland 
carried on a stick between two of them. 
They choose a " Lord " and a " Lady," who 
are dressed in white, with coloured ribbons ; 
the rest carry " maces" z>., sticks dressed 
in ribbons and flowers. The following song 
is sung : 

" Hail ! all hail ! the merry month of May ! 
I'm come to show my garland, 
Because it's the First of May. 

1 At Warborough, Oxon, they sing this verse : 
" The streets are very dirty, 
My shoes are very thin ; 
But I've got a little pocket 
To put my money in." 
IOI 



Old English Customs 

Hail ! all hail ! away to the woods away, 
And to the fields and lanes so gay. 
Hail ! all hail ! " 

At the end of the song, the " Lord " gene- 
rally kisses the "Lady," and contributions in 
money are asked of the bystanders. 

The children at Wheatley, Oxon, sing a 
very sweet little May Day song, which is 
worthy of record : 

" Spring is coming, spring is coming ; 

Birdies, build your nest ; 
Weave together straw and feather, 
Doing each your best. 

Spring is coming, spring is coming, 

Flowers are coming too ; 
Pansies, lilies, daffodilies, 

Now are coming through. 

Spring is coming, spring is coming, 

All around is fair ; 
Shimmer and quiver on the river, 

Joy is everywhere. 

We wish you a happy May." 

At Edlesborough, Bucks, the girls dress 
up a doll, sometimes with a small doll in its 
lap, with many ribbons and flowers, and carry 
it about in a small chair. This is evidently 
intended to represent the Virgin and Child. 
The church is dedicated to St. Mary the 
Virgin ; possibly there may be some connec- 
102 



May Day Customs 

tion between the custom and the patron saint 
of the parish. A similar custom, almost 
defunct, prevails at Brightwalton, Berks, 
where the Virgin and Child, in the guise of 
the Queen of the May, with a doll in a 
basjcet, is borne round the parish. 

A rude custom prevails at Minehead on 
May Day. The men fashion a cardboard 
ship, about ten feet long, with sails trimmed 
with flags and ribbons. This is carried on a 
man's shoulders, his head coming through a 
hole in the deck of the ship. To the end of 
the ship is fastened a cow's tail. The men 
then run about and frighten the people into 
giving them money, threatening to beat them 
with the cow's tail. The origin of this cus- 
tom is said to date from the beginning of the 
eighteenth century, when a ship was sunk ofF 
Dunster, and all hands lost. Only a cow 
was found, which provided a tail wherewith 
to grace the ceremony of the "Hobby Ship." 

In Hawick a few of the young people still 
go a-Maying, and rub their faces in the morn- 
ing dew, whereby they secure twelve months 
of rosy cheeks ; but year by year the number 
of the devotees of " May Morning " are be- 
coming less, and probably the next generation 
will know little of the secrets of how rosy 
cheeks were sought for on early May mornings, 
and perhaps seek less simple and wholesome 
ways for producing the much-desired bloom. 
103 



Old English Customs 

Mrs. Pepys knew the virtues of May-dew, 
as we gather from her husband's diary : 
"My wife away to Woolwich in order to a 
little ayre, and to lie there to-night, and 
so to gather May-dew to-morrow morning, 
which Mrs. Turner hath taught her is the 
only thing in the world to wash her face 
with." 

A very curious May Day custom is ob- 
served at Saltash, Cornwall, on the first three 
days of May. The children gather all the 
old kettles, scuttles, tea-trays, pails, and other 
discarded vessels, and link them with cords. 
In the evenings all these vessels are dragged in 
noisy trail, with much vocal shouting, in and 
out of all the nooks and corners of the parish. 
The sanction of long-established custom 
secures the tolerance of the town authori- 
ties and the public; but the origin of the 
custom is shrouded in mystery. Probably it 
is a survival of a heathen rite, intended to 
scare away demons from the homes and pro- 
perties of the inhabitants. No alms are 
asked, and no reason given for the three 
evenings' noisy proceedings ; and there is an 
air of mystery about the ceremony well 
according with the theory of a demon-driv- 
ing rite. Garlands are also carried round 
the parish by the children on May Morning. 

The eve of May Day at Oldham is known 
as Mischief Night, when it was the custom 
104 



May Day Customs 

for the people to play all manner of tricks on 
their neighbours. My informant remembers 
to have seen a thatched house in a village 
near Oldham adorned with mops, rakes, 
brushes, on the tops of which were stuck 
mugs, tubs, pails, or anything portable up 
to a five-barred gate. Sometimes companies 
would stay up all night playing and singing 
in order to welcome the incoming May. 

In most of the Lancashire towns the 
carters decorate their horses with ribbons, 
rosettes, and flowers. In Bolton prizes are 
given for the finest team of horses, and the 
most tastefully adorned, and the same cus- 
tom prevails in other towns. Lancashire 
folk dearly love a procession. At the school 
feasts, the children, dressed in their best 
finery, always march round the parish. On 
May Day the gaily-decked horses are paraded 
through the principal streets, with bands of 
music, and the Mayor and Corporation 
usually attend the function, which has many 
practical uses. 

In Cornwall, once the home of the Mayers, 
the Maypole no longer exists. At High 
Town, St. Mary's, Scilly, one is erected every 
year, and the girls dance round it decked 
with garlands and wreaths. May Day is 
ushered in at Penzance by the discordant 
blowing of large tin horns. At daybreak 
the boys assemble and perambulate the town 
105 



Old English Customs 

blowing their horns and collecting money for 
a feast. 

In Polperro the people go into the country 
and gather the whitethorn blossoms or narrow- 
leaved elm. Later on the boys sally forth with 
buckets and other vessels full of water, and 
" dip " all who do not wear " the May." 
They sing as their warrant for their conduct 

" The first of May 
Is Dipping Day." 

At Padstow the day is called Hobby- 
Horse Day. A hobby-horse is carried through 
the streets to Traitor's Pool, where it is 
made to drink. The head is dipped in the 
water and the spectators are sprinkled. The 
procession returns home, singing a song to 
commemorate the tradition that the French, 
having landed in the bay, mistook a party of 
mummers in red cloaks for soldiers, hastily 
fled to their boats and sailed away. 

In Leicestershire the observance of May 
Day is still kept up, and girls come round 
bearing a small Maypole tastefully decorated 
with flowers. The Gloucestershire children 
sing as follows : 

" Round the Maypole, trit, trit, trot ! 
See what a garland we have got ; 
Fine and gay, 
Trip away, 

Happy is our new May Day." 
1 06 



May Day Customs 

At Watford, Herts, the girls go about 
the streets, dressed in white, with gay ribbons 
and sashes of various colours. They carry a 
"garland," two hoops, decked with flowers. 
Their song begins as follows : 

" Here begins the merry month of May, 

The bright time of the year, 
When Christ our Saviour died for us, 
Who loved us so dear. 

So dear, so dear, Christ loved us, 

And all our sins to save ; 
We'd better leave off our wickedness 

And turn to the Lord again. 

My song is done, I must be gone, 

No longer can I stay ; 
God bless you all, both great and small, 

I wish you a merry month of May." 

Girls with garlands are seen at Great Grans- 
den, Huntingdonshire, but the old May Lord 
and May Lady who once flourished here are 
now dead. 

At Duxford, Cambridgeshire, the children 
bring their garlands and dolls, and sing : 

" First and second and third of May 
Are chimney-sweepers' dancing days ; 
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you a happy May, 
I've come to show my garlands 
Because it is May Day." 

A perfect garland of song adorns this 
107 



Old English Customs 

bright rural festival, and a volume of the 
verses sung on May Day might be written. 
We will conclude our May Day songs with 
the words of Mayers in Northamptonshire, 
at Denton and Chaldecote : 

" Here come up poor players all, and thus do we begin 
To lead our lives of righteousness, for fear we die in sin. 
To die in sin is dreadful, to go where sinners mourn, 
'Twould have been better for our souls if we had 

ne'er been born. 
Good morning, lords and ladies ! it is the First of 

May; 

I hope you'll view the garland, for it looks so very gay. 
The cuckoo sings in April, the cuckoo sings in May, 
The cuckoo sings in June, in July it flies away. 
Now take a Bible in your hand and read a chapter 

through, 
And when the day of judgment comes, the Lord 

will think of you." 

The hand of the Puritans is evident in 
this curious medley, who altered the old 
May songs and took away from them much 
of their light-heartedness. But, as we have 
already seen, many of the old merry verses 
survived, and are still repeated in the old 
villages of England. 

The original Maypole still stands in many 
villages. At Orwell, near Cambridge, it stood 
till, in 1 869, it was destroyed by a storm, and 
has not since been replaced. There is a fine 
one at Wellow, near Ollerton, Northamp- 
108 



May Day Customs 

tonshire; at Redmire, near Bolton Castle, 
Yorkshire ; at Hemswell, near Gainsborough, 
Lincolnshire ; at Welford, Gloucestershire ; 
at Donnington, Shropshire ; and at Preston 
Brockhurst, in the same county. The May- 
pole may still be seen at Gawthorpe, York- 
shire, where the ancient customs are kept up, 
although marred by the invasion of factories 
and the absence of all the sylvan beauties 
of the country. Long streets of hideous 
cottages and mill chimneys belching forth 
their clouds of smoke are not in keeping 
with the celebration of the Arcadia of the 
First of May. But still the May Queen 
rides on horseback surrounded by her sponsors, 
electors, and attendants, and the Maypole 
is reared and danced around as in the good 
old days. 

At Polebrooke, Oundle, the children elect 
a May Queen and parade the village, the 
May Queen at the head of the procession, 
attended by two girls carrying dressed dolls 
placed in a bower of green and flowers. 
They sing the following words : 

" May is come, we spy the traces 
Of her fingers in the flowers, 
Boys and girls with smiling faces 

Come and seek her through the bowers. 
Catch young May, 
Make her stay, 

Dance around her bright and gay." 
109 



Old English Customs 

One of the most successful revivals of the 
May Day festivities takes place at St. Mary 
Cray, Kent. There the old festival rites are 
celebrated amid beautiful surroundings, and 
thousands assemble to watch Maypole dances 
and attend the coronation of the fair May 
Queen. There have been so many revivals 
of the old May Day customs, that it is not 
vain to hope that ere long each village may 
again have its Maypole and its May Queen, 
and the hearts of the rustic youths and 
maidens be rejoiced by the quaint observances 
of this old-time festival. 



no 



CHAPTER VI 

Helston Furry dance Rogation-tide and Ganging 
Week Beating the bounds at Malborough, Lich- 
Jield, Oxford, Leicester, and London Royal Oak 
Day Wilts custom Selkirk Common -Riding 
" Gravely " Singing custom at Durham. 

ON May 8th, at Helston, Cornwall, there 
remains a most curious and interesting sur- 
vival of an ancient Celtic custom, which is 
known as the Furry Dance. From time 
immemorial this festival has been held, and 
there seems no sign of decaying vitality. 
The origin of the festival is disputed. Some 
attribute it to the vision of a fiery dragon 
over Helston in remote ages, when the in- 
habitants naturally were grievously alarmed ; 
and the Furry dance was subsequently in- 
stituted, with the accompaniment of flowers 
and branches, as a token of rejoicing for the 
disappearance of the monster. Others say it 
is a festival in honour of the Roman goddess 
Flora; whilst still others claim that it is 
connected with the Feast of St. Michael, in 
memory of the cessation of a great plague 
which raged in the seventh century, St. 
Michael being the patron saint of Helston. 
in 



Old English Customs 

A legend narrates that he once encountered 
the Devil, who was playing with a block of 
granite known as Hell's Stone, having been 
originally placed at the mouth of the infernal 
regions. The Devil was worsted in the com- 
bat, and took to flight, dropping the stone 
into the yard of the Angel Inn, where it 
remained until the end of the last century 
as a witness of the truth of the story. 
This stone naturally gave the name to the 
town. 

On May 8th, a procession of thirty or 
forty couples is formed at the Market-house, 
and, preceded by a band, goes through the 
town dancing a quaint country-dance to the 
Celtic Furry tune. The parties are composed 
of gentlemen and ladies of the county families 
in the neighbourhood, and the peculiarity of 
the ceremony is that they dance in and out 
of all the houses, going in at the front door 
and out at the back, and returning vice versa. 
It is a strange processional dance, in no way 
resembling the old Maypole circular dance 
of the Merrie England of our forefathers. 
The words of the old Furry song, set to a 
quaint and original melody, are curious, and 
run as follows : 

" Robin Hood and Little John, 

They both are gone to the fair, O ; 
And we to the merry greenwood, 
To see what they do there, O. 
112 



Helston Furry Dance 



And for to chase, O, 
To chase the buck and doe, 
With Hal-an-tow, 
Jolly rumble, O. 

( Chorus} 

And we were up as soon as any day, O, 
And for to fetch the summer home, 

The summer and the May, O ; 

For the summer is a come, O, 
And winter is a go, O. 

Where are those Spaniards 

That made so great a boast, O ? 
They shall eat the grey goose feather, 
And we will eat the roast, O. 

And every land, O, 
The land that ere we go, 
With Hal-an-tow, 
Jolly rumble, O. 
(Chorus as before.") 

As for St. George, O, 

St. George he was a knight, O ; 
Of all the kings in Christendom, 
King George is the right, O. 

In every land, O, 
The land that ere we go, 
With Hal-an-tow, 
Jolly rumble, O. 

(Chorus) 

God bless Aunt Mary Moses, 

With all her power and might, O ; 
And send us peace in Merry England 
Both day and night, O." 

113 H 



Old English Customs 

The figure of the dance is simple. To 
the first half of the tune the couples dance 
hand in hand ; at the second the first gentle- 
man turns the second lady, and the second 
gentleman the first lady. This change is 
made all down the set. 

i Whether the word Furry is derived from 
I Flora or from fer^ a fair or merrymaking, 
\ or from the Greek <ep>, " to bear," or from 
the Cornish furrier, a thief, alluding to the 
spoils of the greenwood brought home to 
deck their festival, I must leave to the in- 
genuity of the curious. The modern festival 
is utilised by the inhabitants of Helston as 
an occasion for holding horse, dog, and 
poultry shows, and also a Home Mission 
bazaar ; but it still remains one of the most 
curious and interesting gatherings in the 
kingdom. 

Formerly any one found at work on this 
day was seized, set astride on a pole, jolted 
away on men's shoulders amidst a thousand 
huzzas, and at last sentenced to leap over a 
part of the river, so wide that the task was 
impossible without the performer being im- 
mersed. He could, however, gain his liberty 
by a small contribution towards the entertain- 
ments of the day. The boys of the Grammar 
School were not forgotten, and a holiday was 
demanded for them by the revellers. The 
children used to " fade " (a Cornish word 
114 



Beating the Bounds 

signifying "to go") into the country, and 
return with their heads decorated with flowers 
and oak-leaves. Latterly all the ancient cus- 
toms connected with the day have not been 
strictly observed, but the old Furry dance is 
still kept up with accustomed vigour. 

The week in which Rogation-tide and 
Ascension Day fall is sometimes known as 
Gang Week, so named from the custom of 
ganging or beating the bounds of the parishes. 
This custom was once universally practised. 
In the " Book of Homilies " there is a special 
" Exhortation to be spoken to such parishes 
when they use their perambulation in Roga- 
tion Week, for the oversight of the bounds 
and limits of their town." The words of 
the homily are worth quoting, and state that 
" we have occasion given us in our walks to- 
day to consider the old ancient bounds and 
limits belonging to our township, and to 
other our neighbours bordering about us, to 
the intent that we should be content with 
our own, and not contentiously strive for 
others', to the breach of charity, by any 
encroaching one upon another, or claiming 
one of the other, further than that in ancient 
right and custom our forefathers have peace- 
fully laid out unto us for our commodity 
and comfort." Lawyers' deeds and the Ord- 
nance Survey maps have rendered it well-nigh 
impossible to be guilty of the encroaching 



Old English Customs 

of which the homily speaks, but in several 
places the custom of beating the bounds is 
still kept up. 

At Malborough, Devonshire, the practice 
is observed with all due formality ; the mayor 
and town-councillors invariably perambulate 
the town and traverse its boundaries. A few 
years ago the mayor himself was thoroughly 
ducked during his progress, in order to ensure 
his remembering a certain bit of the river 
boundary. In many places boys were beaten 
or ducked at certain spots, in order to impress 
their memories with the details of the parish 
bounds ; but it is not often that so important 
and dignified an official as a mayor receives 
such a painful aid to memory. 

In beating the bounds of the city of Oxford 
it is necessary for the mayor and corporation 
to take a boat and go on the river. A few 
years ago we read that <f the mayor and others 
were upset," and later on the boat capsized. 
Perhaps this ducking was in lieu of " bump- 
ing," and shows that even the holding of the 
office of mayor has some drawbacks. 

Every three years the bounds of the parish 
of St. Mary's, Leicester, are beaten, and the 
day is observed as a holiday by the children. 
The procession is composed of the vicar, 
churchwardens, and other officials, and about 
two hundred and fifty boys. Formerly at 
one spot in the route a hole was dug, and 
116 



Beating the Bounds 

any newly-appointed parish officer was seized, 
and his head placed in the hole, while his 
body was thumped with a shovel. A feast 
was held, and various sports followed, such 
as racing, bobbing for apples in buckets of 
water, &c. ; but these have been discontinued. 

At Lichfield on Ascension Day the choris- 
ters of the cathedral deck the houses and 
street lamps in the parish of the Close with 
elm-boughs. After the midday service the 
clergy and choir start in procession from the 
cathedral, properly vested, the boys carrying 
small pieces of elm, and go round the boun- 
daries of the parish, making a halt at eight 
stations where wells exist, or are said to have 
existed. At each of these stations the Gospel 
for the day is said by one of the priest -vicars 
in turn, followed by the singing of one verse 
of Psalm civ. or c. On re-entering the cathe- 
dral by the north-west door, the verse, " O 
enter then His gates with praise" is sung, 
and the company gather round the font, 
where the blessing is given, and the boys 
throw down their boughs. On the same day 
the sacrist gives a bun to every unconfirmed 
child in the parish. 

At Oxford the bounds of the parish of St. 
Mary the Virgin were beaten by boys with 
white willow wands when Dean Burgon was 
the vicar, and the writer remembers to have 
seen them entering the quadrangle of Oriel 
117 



Old English Customs 

College during their perambulations. I am 
not aware whether the practice is still con- 
tinued. 

In a parish in Suffolk the vicar revived 
the custom a few years ago, but the farmers 
objected to the people crossing their fields 
and making gaps in their hedges. 

Just over the Border they have a famous 
beating of the bounds, better known as the 
Selkirk Common-Riding. On the eve of 
the celebration the senior burgh officer, at- 
tended by a fifer and a drummer, marches 
through the town and announces to the 
lieges that on the morrow the important and 
historic ceremonies would be observed. At 
four o'clock on the following day the caller 
morning air is pierced by the music of the 
fife and drum, and soon a band of pipers 
parade the streets, and enthusiastic "Souters" 
of all ages assemble to take part in the pro- 
ceedings. The flag of the town, an old and 
battered pennon, has recently been replaced 
by a new one, which is carried in the Com- 
mon-Riding. The object of this festival is 
to ride the marches of the town's lands in 
order to protect them from the encroach- 
ments or thieving propensities of neighbour- 
ing lairds. A procession is then formed 
consisting of mounted constables, the brass 
band, the Bailies and members of the Town- 
Council, the Hammermen with their flag, 
118 



Selkirk Common-Riding 

the Merchant Company, Standard - Bearer, 
Provost, Town-Clerk, Burleymen, and others, 
all mounted, to the number of about a 
hundred. The Common-Riding Choir sing 
appropriate melodies. Then the riders pro- 
ceed on their gallop round the marches, and 
not unusually several " spills " occur amongst 
the inexperienced equestrians. Refreshments 
are served at different places during the 
journey, and the lease of one farm obliges 
the tenant to regale the horsemen at the 
Common-Riding. Races are run for switches 
amidst wild excitement, and then the com- 
pany return to the town, where a picturesque 
ceremony takes place commemorating the 
noble achievements of the famous Selkirk 
Souters at Flodden Field. The Hammer- 
men and the Souters cast the colours to the 
tune of " Up wi' the Souters o' Selkirk," 
and the ceremony is concluded with tumul- 
tuous cheers. The Selkirk Common-Riding 
is the great festival of the year in the town, 
and does much to foster local esprit de corps, 
and to preserve the historical and legendary 
lore of this beautiful Border district. 

In London in several parishes, and at Tor- 
quay, beating the bounds is observed with 
municipal honours; and possibly in many 
other places the custom still exists, but no 
further particulars have been ascertained of 
the practice of this ancient observance. 
119 



Old English Customs 

May 29th, the birthday of Charles II., and 
the day of his public entry into London after 
the Restoration, is duly honoured by young 
people in many parts of the country. In 
Wilts it is known as Shitsack or Shick-shack 
Day, 1 when the children carry shitsack, or 
sprigs of young oak, in the morning, and 
powder-monkey or even-ash (ash leaves with 
an equal number of leaflets) in the afternoon. 
Those who wear these emblems of loyalty 
have the privilege of pinching or otherwise 
ill-treating those who do not don the oak- 
leaf. The adoption of this leaf is, of course, 
intended to commemorate the escape of the 
King when he hid himself in the famous oak 
at Boscobel after the battle of Worcester. 

At Edlesborough, Buckinghamshire, it has 
always been the custom to attach an oak- 
bough to the flag-staff on the church-tower 
on " Oak Apple Day," and we remember to 
have seen a similar practice in Cheshire. 

The day is called " Oak and Nettle Day " 
in Nottinghamshire, where the boys arm 
themselves with oaken sprigs and bunches of 
nettles. All who cannot " show their oak," 
and thus testify to their loyalty, are punished 
by being struck with the nettles on their 
hands and face. Rotten eggs used to be in- 
struments of punishment about twenty years 
ago. 

1 Also in Berks. 
120 



Royal Oak Day 

Royal Oak Day is loyally observed at 
Northampton, which has a grateful remem- 
brance of several generous acts of the Stuart 
king. A great fire nearly destroyed the town 
in 1675, and Charles II. gave the citizens 
a thousand tons of timber out of Whittle- 
wood Forest to enable them to rebuild their 
houses, and also remitted the duty of chimney- 
money for seven years. Hence his memory 
is duly honoured. The corporation attend 
All Saints' Church on May 29th, and march 
thither in procession, followed by all the 
school-children in the town, the boys having 
gilt oak-apples in their caps. The statue of 
the king, near the church, is also decorated 
with oaken boughs on this day, and many of 
the houses are similarly adorned. Northamp- 
ton is evidently very loyal, and does not forget 
kindness. 

A very strange custom prevails on this 
day at Wishford and Barford, near Salisbury. 
The inhabitants of these villages have certain 
rights in Grovely woods. These rights are 
kept up by a meeting on " Oak Apple Day," 
when boughs are gathered and carried in pro- 
cession, and the cry is " Grovely ! Grovely ! 
Grovely ! " 

It is still the custom for the Durham 

Cathedral choir to ascend the tower of the 

cathedral on May 29, and sing three anthems 

from the three sides of it. This custom is 

121 



Old English Customs 

as old as the battle of Neville's Cross, which 
Queen Philippa fought with David I. of Scot- 
land in the year 1 346, when the monks chanted 
masses from the summit of the tower on be- 
half of the Queen. Tradition states that a 
choir boy once overbalanced himself and fell 
from the tower, and was killed. Hence the 
choir only sing their anthems on the three 
sides. 



122 



CHAPTER VII 

Club feasts at Whitsuntide Bampton, Oxon 
Morris-dancers Irish "death ride" Wakes in 
Lancashire and Yorks Rush-bearing at Oldham, 
Ambleside, Grasmere Hay strewing at Braun- 
ston, Leicester Horn dance at Abbot Bromley 
" Flower sermon " Cornish "feastcn " Sunday. 

WHITSUNTIDE is the great season for 
the old club feasts. From an economic 
point of view, no one who has the welfare 
of the people at heart will regret the decline 
of the old village benefit clubs. They were 
nearly all rotten ; they were conducted on 
the most unsound systems of financial orga- 
nisation ; they usually failed to benefit the 
members when aid was most needed ; and 
their place is well supplied by the admirably 
conducted benefit societies, the Oddfellows, 
Foresters, and other sound benefit clubs. 
But the student of the manners and customs 
of our race regrets the disappearance of many 
of our village clubs, because it has entailed 
the destruction of many old customs asso- 
ciated with the annual club feast, which 
were not without their special interest and 
123 



Old English Customs 

importance. Those that have survived the 
lapse of time are here recorded. 

At Bampton, Oxon, in order to celebrate 
the club feast, which is held on Whit-Mon- 
day, a procession goes round the town ; it is 
made up as follows : 

1. A drum-and-piper, or, as he is more 
commonly called, " whittle-and-dub " man 
(the term pipe-and-tabour was in use within 
living memory) ; the music is now, however, 
played by a fiddler. 

2. Eight morris-dancers, dressed in finely- 
pleated white shirts, white moleskin trousers, 
and top-hats decorated with red, white, and 
blue ribbons. Only six dance at a time, two 
standing out to relieve the others. They 
dance to certain well-known tunes (a list of 
which is given), and sing while they dance. 

3. A clown called the " Squire," who 
carries a staff with a calf s tail at one end 
and a bladder at the other, with which he 
belabours the bystanders. He also carries a 
money-box, known as the " treasury," which 
in this case is a wood box with a slit in the lid. 

4. A " sword-bearer," who carries a cake 
in a round tin impaled on a sword. The 
cake is a rich pound-cake, and is provided 
by some lady in the town. The tin has its 
rim cut into zig-zags, and has a slit in the 
bottom to admit the sword-blade. Both 
cake and sword are decorated with ribbons. 

124 



Whitsuntide Customs 

When the dancing begins, any one who 
wishes can taste the cake by applying to the 
" sword-bearer." When all is over at night, 
what is left of the cake is divided amongst 
the eleven men, who generally give it to 
their friends. 



BAMPTON MORRIS-DANCERS. 
First Dance, to the tune of 11 Green Garters" 

" First for the stockings, and then for the shoes, 
And then for the bonny green garters ; 
A pair for me, and a pair for you, 
And a pair for they that comes after." 

Second Dance, to the tune of " Constant Billy" 

" Oh, rny Billy, my constant Billy, 
When shall I see my Billy again ? 
When the fishes fly over the mountain, 
Then you'll see your Billy again." 

Third Dance, to the tune of" The Willow Tree." 

" Once they said my lips were red, 
Now they're scarlet pale ; 
When I, like a silly girl, 
Believ'd his flattering tale. 
But he vow'd he'd never deceive me, 
And so fondly I believ'd he, 
While the stars and the moon 

So sweetly shone 

Over the willow-tree." 
I2 5 



Old English Customs 



Fourth Dance, to the tune of " The Maid 
of the Mi//." 

" There's fifty fair maidens that sport on the green, 

I gaz'd on them well, as you see ; 
But the Maid of the Mill, the Maid of the Mill, 

The Maid of the Mill for me. 
She is straight and tall as a poplar-tree, 

Her cheeks are red as a rose ; 
She is one of the fairest young girls I see, 

When she's dress'd in her Sunday clothes. 
The Maid of the Mill, the Maid of the Mill, 

The Maid of the Mill for me." 



Handsome John. 

" John is a handsome youth complete, 
A smarter young lad never walked the street 
And still the lady's tongue runs on 
Oh ! what a handsome man was John ! 
Sing fal the ral a li do." 



Highland Mary. 

" Around sweet Highland Mary's grave 

We'll plant the fairest of lilies 
The primrose sweet and violet blue, 

Likewise the daffodillies. 
But since this world's been grown so wide, 

In some lonesome place we'll tarry ; 
Welcome then come (sic), gather me to sleep 
With my Highland Mary." 
126 



Country Dances 



Bob and Joan. 

11 1 won't be my father's Jack, 
And I won't be my mother's Jill ; 
But I will be some fiddler's wife, 
Then we can muse it at our will. 

T'other little tune t'other little tune, 
Bob at night and Bob at noon." 

The melodies to which these words are 
sung are quaint and original. They have 
been noted down as sung by the villagers at 
the present time, and are published in the 
Appendix. Some of the customs of old May 
Day are observed now at Whitsuntide at 
Bampton. 1 Other dancing tunes are " Old 
Tom of Oxford, 7 ' "The Old Green Bushes," 
"The Girl I Left Behind Me," "The 
Nutting Girl," "The Old Green Sleeves," 
"Jgg in g to tne Fair," "The Princess 
Royal," "The Forester's Daughter," "The 
Bride in Camp," and " The Flowers of 
Emborough." 

It is pleasing to find that at least in one 
village the old country-dances still exist. 
In most parts of England they have become 
extinct. Waltz and polka have banished 
the old traditional steps and figures, songs 
and melodies which were once favoured at 
the Court of the Stuarts, and were carried 
abroad to France, Germany, and Italy, and 

1 Cf. " May Day Customs," p. 100. 
127 



Old English Customs 

became everywhere popular. They were 
called country-dances, or contre-danses, be- 
cause the performers were formed in two 
lines, the ladies on one side, the gentlemen 
on the other. Whilst they danced the 
familiar steps, " crossed hands and down the 
middle," all the dancers sang the words of 
the old ballad " Bob and Joan " or " High- 
land Mary." Such were the old English 
country-dances, which the Bampton villagers 
have preserved until the present day. We 
have witnessed notable revivals of May 
Queens and Maypole dances. May we hope 
that some one will revive for us the old- 
fashioned English country-dances ? 

In the Kennet Valley, near Newbury, 
Whitsuntide is the great village holiday 
when the surviving clubs assemble. Decked 
out in their best clothes adorned with 
ribbons and banners, the men parade the 
lanes, preceded by a band, and march to 
the church, where a special service is held. 
Then they adjourn to a barn and have 
dinner, and later in the day go to one or 
two of the principal houses in the neigh- 
bourhood, where dancing takes place on the 
lawn or drives, while the band plays vigor- 
ously. Village sports, running, and racing 
are not uncommon at these club feasts, and 
at Brindle, near Preston, Lancashire, we 
have seen a most graceful company of 
128 



Morris-Dancers 

morris-dancers, consisting of about sixteen 
young men, dressed in tight-fitting purple 
knickerbockers and stockings, with football 
" sweaters " of the same colour. They had 
staves in their hands, and danced up the 
village street, striking their staves together 
in rhythmic time, while a band played stirring 
melodies. It was a graceful and pleasing 
spectacle, and may still be seen in the neigh- 
bourhood of Preston and Chorley. 

Very different from these homely scenes are 
the wild spectacles which Irish superstition 
brings before the eyes of the credulous, and 
none are so weird as " the death-ride " which 
occurs at Whitsuntide, The Irish peasants 
believe that on a particular day at this 
season of the year all those who have been 
drowned in the sea come up and ride over 
the waves on white horses and hold strange 
revels. A fisherman who remained on the 
water on the night of this ghastly pageant 
saw a crowd of the dead on white horses 
making their way towards him. Their faces 
were pale with the hue of death and their 
eyes burned with fire. They stretched out 
thin long arms to lay hold on him, but he 
managed to escape from their fearful grasp. 
As he landed, however, one of the horsemen 
rode close to him, and he saw the face of 
a friend who had been drowned the year 
before, and heard a voice calling him to 
129 i 



Old English Customs 

escape. Accordingly, he fled at full speed, 
never even daring to look back to see whether 
he was pursued. 

The Wakes festivals are also great occa- 
sions for the morris-dancers, especially at 
Oldham, Lancashire, and in that neighbour- 
hood. This is one of the oldest of our 
feasts, and has survived with a surprising 
tenacity of life in most of the villages and 
towns of Lancashire. The day of the 
wakes is the festival of the patron saint of 
the parish church, and is so called because, 
on the previous night or vigil, the people 
used to watch, or u wake," in the church 
till the morning dawned. It is the custom 
for the inhabitants of the parish to keep 
open house on that day, and to entertain 
all their relations and friends from the sur- 
rounding neighbourhood, who always make 
a point of visiting the village on " Wake 
Sunday." It is a great time for the as- 
sembling of shows and roundabouts, which, 
with their steam-organs, make night hideous. 
Nearly every town and village in Lancashire 
observes its wakes. Rochdale, Hey wood, 
Ashton-under-Lyne, and Oldham are especi- 
ally celebrated for their observance of this 
festival ; though the people are now in 
the habit of rushing off to the seaside, and 
desert the local fair grounds for the attrac- 
tions of Morecambe and Blackpool. The 
130 



The Wakes 

feasts or wakes in the neighbourhood of 
Bradford are called "Tides," except at 
Brighouse, where the festival is still known 
as the Rush-bearing, and are kept up vigor- 
ously. The Sunday after the feast is 
known as the " Thump." 1 Thus we have the 
Queensbury Thump, the Clayton, Thornton, 
Denholme, and Allerton Thumps, when the 
natives who reside elsewhere make a rule to 
visit their old home, and the reassembling 
of scattered families causes much social 
happiness. At Great Gransden the feast is 
held on the Monday after the Feast of St. 
Bartholomew, the patron saint of the village, 
when stalls are erected near the Plough Inn, 
and the villagers indulge in dancing. At 
West Houghton, Lancashire, a huge pie is 
made in the shape of a cow's head, which is 
eaten on the day of the wake, the Sunday after 
St. Bartholomew's Day. The inhabitants are 
sometimes called " cow 'yeds." At the Old- 
ham wake a rushcart used to be sent from each 
surrounding locality, and as many as ten rush- 
carts have been seen in the town on that occa- 
sion. They are not now quite so plentiful. 

1 A writer in the Oldham Observer suggests that the name 
arose from the rude custom of "thumping" any one who entered 
an inn on these occasions and refused to pay for liquor. At a 
recent Halifax " Thump," an offender of this description was laid 
face downwards and beaten with a heated fire shovel. The 
ringleader of this frolic nearly suffered a month's imprisonment 
on account of his strict adherence to old customs. 



Old English Customs 

The origin of the rush-bearing dates back 
to the early times when the floors of our 
houses and churches consisted of the hard 
dry earth, which was covered with rushes; 
and once a year there was the great ceremony 
of the rush-bearing, when the inhabitants of 
each village or town went in procession to 
the church to strew the floor with newly-cut 
rushes. Although we no longer need the 
rushes to cover the nakedness of our church 
aisles, the ceremony of rush-bearing still 
exists. The rush-cart is piled up with rush- 
sheaves decorated with ribbons, and the 
morris-dancers perform their quaint antics. 
Sometimes there is a May Queen under a 
canopy of rushes, and a jester with a bladder 
attached to a staff, with which he belabours 
the crowd as he marches in front of the 
procession. 

Some particulars of the annual rush- 
bearing at Ambleside may not be without 
interest. It is held on the last Saturday in 
July, the next Saturday after St. Anne's Day, 
who was the patron saint of Ambleside. 1 
The children meet at the church-room, and 
with the rush-bearers, carrying about two 
hundred crosses made of rushes and decorated 
with flowers, form a procession, attended by 
the clergy. They march to the church, 
where a special service takes place, and a ser- 

1 The modern church is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. 
I 3 2 



Rush-Bearing 

mon is preached appropriate to the occasion. 
After the service each child receives a square 
of gingerbread, according to ancient custom. 
On Sunday the festival is continued. 

The rushes, no longer needed as a carpet, 
are formed into various devices to symbolise 
Christian truths, and in recent years have 
been ornamented with flowers. Rush-bearing 
is a beautiful old custom, and creates much 
interest in the old-world places wherein it 
continues to thrive. The floor of the church 
of St. Peter, Barrowden, is strewed with reeds 
cut from the river-side for six weeks after 
the festival of St. Peter. 

The rush-bearing at Grasmere is a beauti- 
ful and picturesque festival, and claims to be 
the only place where the custom appears to 
have an unbroken record from remote ages 
to the present day. It owes its preservation 
to the energy of the late vicar, Mr. Fletcher, 
and the liberality of the late Mr. Dawson of 
Allan Bank, Grasmere, who was an admirer 
of the old custom, and encouraged the 
children to keep up the procession by pre- 
senting a reward to each of the youthful 
rush-bearers. Until 1885 the rush-bearing 
took place on the Saturday nearest July 
2Oth; it is now celebrated on the Saturday 
nearest to St. Oswald's Day (August 5th), 
to whom the church is dedicated. The 
churchwardens' account-books reveal the 
133 



Old English Customs 

numerous charges for " ale bestowed on ye 
rush-bearers and others, 2s./ 1 also " cakes 
for the rush-bearers," &c. As late as 1841 
the floor of the church was unpaved, and 
was yearly strewed with rushes at the popular 
festival. Hone gives a very interesting 
record of rush-bearing at Grasmere, as it 
was celebrated in the earlier years of the 
century (July 21, 1827) : 

"The church door was open, and I dis- 
covered that the villagers were strewing the 
floor with fresh rushes. During the whole 
of this day, I observed the children busily 
employed in preparing garlands of such wild 
flowers as the beautiful valley produces for 
the evening procession, which commenced at 
9 P.M., in the following order : The chil- 
dren, chiefly girls, holding these garlands, 
paraded through the village preceded by the 
Union Band (thanks to the great drum for 
this information). They then entered the 
church, when the three largest garlands were 
placed on the altar, and the remaining ones 
in various other parts of the place. In the 
procession I observed the Opium-Eater, Mr. 
Barber (an opulent gentleman residing in the 
neighbourhood), Mr. and Mrs. Wordsworth, 
Miss Wordsworth, and Miss Dora Words- 
worth. Wordsworth is the chief supporter 
of these rustic ceremonies. The procession 
over, the party adjourned to the ball-room, 



Rush-Bearing 

a hayloft, at my worthy friend Mr. Bell's, 
where the country lads and lasses tripped it 
merrily and heavily. The dance was kept 
up till a quarter to twelve, when a livery 
servant entered and delivered the follow- 
ing verbal message to Billy (the fiddler) : 
'Master's respects, and will thank you to lend 
him the fiddle-stick. 1 Billy took the hint : 
the Sabbath was now at hand, and the pastor 
of the parish had adopted this gentle mode 
of apprising the assembled revellers that 
they ought to cease their revelry. The 
servant departed with the fiddle-stick, the 
chandelier was removed, and when the 
village clock struck twelve, not an indi- 
vidual was to be seen out of doors in the 
village." 

Pews and floors were introduced into the 
church in 1841, but the rush-bearing con- 
tinued to be kept up with undiminished 
vigour. It is now celebrated on the Satur- 
day next after St. Oswald's Day (August 
5th), and new developments have taken place, 
which are revivals of the old-time mode of 
rush-bearing. The children assemble with 
their garlands, and arrange them along the 
churchyard wall, where thousands come to 
admire the devices and floral decorations. 
Moses in the bulrushes used to be a fav- 
ourite design which rush-bearers attempted 
to represent. At 6.30 the procession is 

135 



Old English Customs 

marshalled in the road in the following 
order : 

Banner of St. Oswald. 
Clergy and Choir in surplices. 

Band. 

Queen with Pages. 

Maids of Honour bearing the Rush-sheet. 
The Rush-bearers. 

The queen and her court and the bearing 
of the rush-sheet were revived in 1891. 
The latter was always an important feature 
in the old festival. " Arranging the sheet," 
says Bamford, a Lancashire poet, " was ex- 
clusively the work of girls and women ; and 
in proportion as it was happily designed and 
fitly put together, was the praise or dispa- 
ragement meted out by the people a point 
on which they would be not a little sensitive. 
The sheet was a piece of white linen, gene- 
rally a good bed-sheet, and on it were pretty 
rosettes and quaint compartments, and bor- 
derings of all colours and hues which either 
paper, tinsel, ribbons, or natural flowers could 
supply. In these compartments were ar- 
ranged silver watches, trays, spoons, sugar- 
tongs, teapots, quart tankards, drinking cups, 
and other fitting articles of ornament and 
value." The present sheet was spun in Gras- 
mere by a young woman of the village. 

After the procession has been formed, the 



Rush-Bearing 

hymn for St. Oswald is sung, and the band 
plays the " Rush-bearing March " (said to 
have been played nearly a century ago), and 
the procession perambulates the village, the 
bells ringing and the tower flag flying. On 
returning to the church, the Rush-bearers' 
Hymn is sung, and the garlands arranged 
round the walls. Full choral Evensong fol- 
lows. The children afterwards receive gin- 
gerbread, and some wrestling bouts engage 
the attention of the young men. The gar- 
lands are removed on the following Mon- 
day to a neighbouring field, where the May- 
pole is set up, and a regular gala held for 
the rush-bearers and all who choose to share 
it. The words of the Rush-bearers' Hymn 
and that of St. Oswald have no great dis- 
tinguishing merit, and two verses of the 
former may suffice : 

The Rush-bearers' Hymn. 

Our fathers to the House of God, 

As yet a building rude, 
Bore offerings from the flowery sod, 

And fragrant rushes strewed. 

May we, their children, ne'er forget 

The pious lesson given, 
But honour still, together met, 

The Lord of Earth and Heaven. 

The rush-bearing with morris-dancing is 

137 



Old English Customs 

still kept up at Whitworth, near Rochdale ; 
at Warcop, Westmorland ; Haworth and 
Saddleworth, Yorks ; and other places. 

Sometimes churches are now strewn with 
hay, as is the case at Braunston, Leicester- 
shire, on the day of the feast, the Sunday 
after St. Peter's Day. On the Thursday 
before the wake or feast, the Holme 
Meadow is mown, and the parish clerk 
fetches on the Saturday a small load of 
hay, which he must spread with his hands 
on the floor of the church. The portion 
of the meadow whence the hay is brought 
is called "The Clerk's Acre," and the rest 
of the hay belongs to him. At many other 
churches in Leicestershire the same custom 
used to exist, but we believe this is the only 
surviving one. 

It will be remarked that the wakes were 
originally a religious festival held in honour 
of the patron saint of the village. It was 
the occasion for the assembling of many 
people from the neighbouring towns and 
villages. Hence the chapmen and trades- 
folk came to exhibit and sell their wares, 
and the festival of the saint became the 
fair of the place ; the word itself being 
derived from the ecclesiastical term feria, a 
holiday. The religious element of the old 
wakes has passed away, but the festival is 
still observed as a great social and friendly 

138 



Horn-'Dance at Abbot Bromley 

gathering ; and as it continues to promote 
kindly and neighbourly feelings, it is not 
without its uses. 

The annual wakes at Abbot Bromley, a 
village on the borders of Needwood Forest, 
near Stafford, is celebrated by a curious 
survival from mediaeval times called the 
Horn-dance. Six deer-skulls with antlers, 
mounted on short poles, are carried about 
by men grotesquely attired, who caper to 
a lively tune, and make "the deer," as the 
antlers are called, dance about. Another 
quaintly dressed individual, mounted on a 
hobby-horse, is at hand with a whip, with 
which he lashes the deer every now and again 
in order to keep them moving. Meanwhile 
a sportsman with a bow and arrow makes 
believe to shoot the deer. The horn-dance 
used to take place on certain Sunday morn- 
ings at the main entrance to the parish 
church, when a collection was made for the 
poor. At the present day the horns are the 
property of the vicar for the time being, and 
are kept, with a bow and arrow and the 
frame of the hobby-horse, in the church- 
tower, together with a curious old pot for 
collecting money at the dance. It takes 
place now on the Monday after Wakes Sun- 
day, which is the Sunday next to September 
4th. Similar dances formerly took place 
in other places in the county of Stafford, 

139 



Old English Customs 

notably at the county town and Seighford, 
where they lingered until the beginning of 
the century. The under-jaw of the hobby- 
horse is loose, and is worked by a string, so 
that it " clacks" against the upper-jaw in time 
with the music. The money is collected by a 
woman, probably Maid Marion ; the archer 
is doubtless a representation of Robin Hood ; 
and besides these characters there is a jester. 
Dr. Cox has examined the horns, and pro- 
nounced them to be reindeer horns. 

The city of London even is not deprived 
at this bright season of all associations with 
the beauties of the country. At St. James' 
Church, Mitre Court, Aldgate, on Whitsun 
Tuesday, the " Flower Sermon " is preached, 
and at St. Leonard's Church, Shoreditch, a 
botanical sermon is delivered, according to 
the will of Thomas Fairchild in 1729. 

In Cornwall the festival of the dedication 
of each church is kept on the nearest Sun- 
day and Monday to the saint's day, which 
are called by the people " Feasten " Sunday 
and Monday. " Plum-cake," coloured bright 
yellow with saffron, is the favourite viand on 
these occasions. 



CHAPTER VIII 

Midsummer Eve customs, Pontypridd y Wales 
Cornish customs Bale-Jtres Ratby meadow- 
mowing Reeve houses at Desford Harvest 
customs Mell-sheaf and Kern-supper Kern- 
baby The " maiden " Cailleach Devonshire 
" Knack" " Dumping" Harvest-bell Horn- 
blowing in Hertfordshire Harvest-songs 
Sheep-shearing in Dorset Michaelmas goose 
Biddenham rabbit St. Crispin s Day and the 
shoemakers. 

1 HERE is a strange mixture of elements 
in the constitution of our social customs and 
observances. Some of them are distinctly 
ecclesiastical and of Christian origin, though, 
as we have seen, in many cases the religious 
element has been eliminated. In others the 
origin is distinctly Pagan, and carries us back 
to the time when Norse legendary lore or 
Saxon superstition filled the hearts of our 
forefathers. 

The observance of the wakes was originally 
of a religious character. We now record 
one of a distinctively Celtic nature. Mid- 
summer Eve is one of the ancient Druidic festi- 
vals still liberally honoured in Wales. The 
141 



Old English Customs 

custom of lighting bonfires survives in many 
villages, and around them the villagers dance 
and leap through the flames. At Pontypridd 
there are various ceremonies of a solemn sort. 
The leaping through the flames is supposed 
to ward off evil spirits and prevent sickness. 
The connection of the ceremony of the bon- 
fires with the old worship of the sun is in- 
disputable. Its practice was very general 
in nearly all European nations, and in not 
very remote times, from Norway to the shores 
of the Mediterranean, the glow of St. John's 
fires might have been seen. The Scandi- 
navians lit their bonfires in honour of their 
gods Odin and Thor, and the leaping through 
the flames reminds us of the worshippers of 
Baal and Moloch, who used to pass their 
children through the fire that burned at the 
feet of their cruel god. It is strange that 
such a custom should have had so long a 
continuance. 

The customs of Wales and Cornwall are 
naturally very similar, and on the Cornish 
hills the bonfires blaze, though they are not 
so numerous as formerly. In remote and 
primitive districts the people still believe 
that dancing in a ring around a bonfire or 
leaping through its flames is calculated to 
ensure good luck to the performers, and to 
serve as a protection from witchcraft and 
other malign influences during the ensuing 
142 



Midsummer s Eve 

year. Some years ago on Midsummer's Eve 
the old people would hobble away to some 
high ground whence they could obtain a view 
of the most prominent hills, such as Carn- 
brea, Castle-an-Dinas, Carn Galver, St. Agnes 
Bickaw, and many other beacon-hills far away 
to the north and east, which vied with each 
other in their midsummer's blaze. They 
counted the fires, and drew a presage from 
the number of them. There are now but 
few bonfires to be seen on the western heights; 
but Tregonan, Godolphin, and Carn Martle 
Hills, with others towards Redruth, still 
retain their Baal fires. Groups of girls, 
neatly dressed and decked with garlands, 
wreaths, or chaplets of flowers, until quite 
recently used to dance in the streets on Mid- 
summer's Eve ; but this custom has almost 
died out. 

But when we cross the sea and visit the 
extreme west of Brittany, we see the Baal- 
fires blaze on every hill, round which the 
peasants dance all night, in their holiday 
clothes, to the sound of the biniou (a kind 
of rustic hautboy) and the shepherd's horn. 
The girl who dances round nine St. John's 
fires before midnight is sure to be married 
within the year. In many parishes the cure 
himself goes in procession with banner and 
cross to light the sacred fire, and all the super- 
stitions which ever flourished in the Celtic 
H3 



Old English Customs 

portion of our island are venerated and ob- 
served with unabated faith and zeal. In Ireland 
too the Bale or Beltane fires are lighted, and 
young men leap through the flames, while 
the children are lifted across the embers when 
the fire has burnt low, in order to secure 
them good luck during the coming year. 
This usually takes place on May Day in 
Ireland. Lady Wilde gives an account of 
the origin of these fires which was furnished 
by an old peasant. The "bushes" lighted 
on May Day were first set up in honour of 
the conquest of the Tuatha de Danans by 
the great Milesians. A magician of the 
Tuatha caused innumerable fiery darts to go 
forth against the Milesian prince ; but in 
passing they were all stopped by a bush that 
stood between the chief and the magician, so 
that a flame arose and the bush withered and 
burned away. Hence the burning of the 
May bushes, which to this day are supposed 
to preserve those who pass through the 
smoke against witchcraft. The authority of 
this folk legend is, of course, indisputable. 

" To the immortal memory of John of 
Gaunt" is, as we have already noticed, a 
toast drunk at the Hocktide solemnities at 
Hungerford. There is another town where 
the same toast is annually proposed and 
drunk in solemn silence. At Ratby, in the 
county of Leicester, an annual feast takes 
144 



Meadow- Mowing Custom 

place which is remarkable for several quaint 
observances, and owes its origin to the time 
of the worthy son of King Edward III. It 
appears that the lot meadows at Ratby 
adjoined the road, and the custom from 
very early times was for the occupiers to 
mow their crops on a certain day, called 
" Meadow-morning," and to spend the rest 
of the day with music and dancing. Now 
it happened that John of Gaunt, Duke of 
Lancaster, passed along the road, and observ- 
ing their mirth and festivity, he alighted 
from his horse and asked the cause of their 
diversion. They told him that they were 
mowing their meadow, called Ramsdale, 
according to their annual custom. The 
Duke, still preserving his incognito, joined 
in their diversions, and was so pleased 
with their innocent pastimes, that when he 
took his leave he told them that if they 
would meet him in Leicester, he would give 
to each of them a ewe to their ram, also 
a wether whose fleece would make them a 
rich repast. Accordingly the rustics went to 
Leicester, and the Duke redeemed his pro- 
mise by giving them three pieces of land to 
be called respectively, " the Ewes," " the 
Boots," and " the Wether," the grass on the 
last field to be sold annually to defray the 
cost of a feast on Whit-Monday. He also 
drew up certain articles for the regulation 
145 K 



Old English Customs 

of this bequest. Two persons were to be 
chosen annually, to be called caterers, who 
should go to Leicester to what inn they should 
think proper, when a calf's-head should 
be provided for their breakfast ; and when 
the bones were picked clean, they were to 
be put on a dish and served up with the 
dinner. Likewise the innkeeper was to pro- 
vide two large rich pies for the caterers to 
take home, that their families might partake 
of some of their festivities. Likewise there 
should be provided for each person a short 
silk lace, tagged at both ends with silver, 
being equipped with which, they should all 
proceed to Enderby, and sell the grass of 
"the Wether" to the best bidder; from 
thence they should go to the meadow and 
dismount, and each person should take a 
small piece of grass from the field and tie it 
round their tagged lace, and wear it in their 
hats, and ride in procession to the High 
Cross in Leicester, and there throw them 
among the populace; from thence proceed 
to their inn, and go in procession to St. 
Mary's Church, where a sermon was to be 
preached for the benefit of a hospital founded 
by Henry, Earl of Lancaster. When the 
service was over, a deed should be read by 
the clergyman concerning the gift, and the 
church adorned with flowers. When the 
ceremony was concluded, they were to return 
146 



Meadow- Mowing Custom 

to their inn to dinner and close the day with 
mirth and festivity. 1 

The ceremonies have somewhat varied in 
course of years, but the following account 
(slightly abridged) in Leicestershire Notes 
and Queries shows that the main features 
of the function still survive : The caterer 
orders lunch at the inn at Enderby at 1 1 A.M., 
consisting of flat, stilton, and cream cheese, 
butter, various cakes, cucumber, raddish, 
watercress, &c., with plenty of home-brewed 
ale, which makes a hearty meal. He then 
proceeds to sell the grass on the Wether. 
He then, with the riders, eighteen in num- 
ber, proceeds to an inn in Leicester, where 
dinner has been previously ordered, together 
with a lunch for ten inmates of Trinity 
Hospital, which latter must consist of calf's- 
head, bacon, &c., and one quart of ale each. 
When the riders arrive at the inn, the custom 
is to drink from a quart of ale before alight- 
ing, the oldest of the Hospitallers having 
thrown the bones of the calf's-head under 
the horse of the first to arrive. The riders 
are then shown into the dining-room, and an 
ample meal is served. Dinner concluded, 
two bottles of brandy are brought, and all 
standing, drink " to the immortal memory of 
John o' Gaunt." The table is then spread 

1 Cf. Throsby's " History of Leicester," quoted by C. J. Billson 
in " Folk-Lore of Leicestershire." 

147 



Old English Customs 

with dessert, and the bill having been called 
for, to see how far the money will hold out, 
the evening is spent in conviviality. 

At the annual sale of the grass of the 
Wether the ancient custom of passing a 
penny round the table during the bidding is 
observed. Prior to the dinner the company 
formerly used to ride through the neigh- 
bouring brook, the Soar, which is said in 
rainy weather " to wash the wether's breech," 
but this part of the ceremony of the day 
seems to have been abandoned. 

A meadow - mowing custom prevails at 
Desford. 1 In the manor there are eighteen 
reeve-houses, the owners of which have the 
reeve-meadow annually in succession. The 
reeve for the year has to find a dinner for 
the court baron, to pay 1 to the steward, 
and to provide prizes at the " meadow- 
mowing," which consists of athletic sports for 
the labourers. They indulge in wrestling, 
running, and other games. No reeve-house is 
ever wholly pulled down, otherwise the owner 
loses his rights. So when a house has to be 
rebuilt, some portion of the old building, a 
chimney or a doorway, is left standing. 

The harvest is drawing near, and several 
customs linger on connected with the feast 
of the ingathering. Agricultural depression 
has killed many of them, and the farmers 

1 Leicestershire Notes and Queries. 
148 



Harvest Customs 

are no longer able to dispense that open- 
handed hospitality with which they were 
accustomed to regale their labourers in the 
good old days when agriculture was a thriv- 
ing industry. Lammas Day, August ist 
the ancient Loaf-mass, when a loaf of bread 
made of the first ripe corn was used in the 
service of the Holy Communion remains in 
the calendar, but its observance as a feast of 
the first-fruits has passed away. St. Roch's 
Day, August i6th, formerly observed as the 
harvest-home day, is scarcely known. We 
have our harvest-festivals in our churches 
now, and they are always well observed. 
The churches are beautifully decorated with 
fruit and flowers, and the villagers always 
attend in large numbers, and sing with much 
cheerfulness and fervour such hymns as 

" We plough the fields and scatter 
The good seed on the land." 

These harvest-festivals are a fairly modern 
institution, but they have now become almost 
universal, and few villages at the present time 
have no harvest-thanksgiving services. 

The old method of celebrating the feast 
of the ingathering was not connected with 
any religious observance, and many curious 
customs are associated with it. The old 
Pagan autumn feast, as Mr. Green says, 
" lingered on unchallenged in the village 
149 



Old English Customs 

harvest-home, with the sheaf, in old times a 
symbol of the god, nodding gay with flowers 
and ribbons on the last waggon." Canon 
Atkinson states that we cannot use the past 
tense even yet in speaking of this accom- 
paniment of the harvest-home, although the 
" harvest-home " is no longer the village 
festival, but one that is celebrated on divers 
farms all comprised in the same parochial 
districts. In Yorkshire the " mell-sheaf," 
the "mell -supper," or " kern -supper," are 
still well known in many a primitive farm- 
hold or hilly daleside occupation throughout 
the northern districts. 1 The kern-supper is 
given to the labourer by the farmer on the 
completion of the cutting of the corn. Mr. 
Henderson, in his " Folk-Lore of North 
England "(1879), remarks : " Our most char- 
acteristic festive rejoicings accompany the 
harvest, namely, the mell-supper and the kern- 
baby. In the northern part of Northumber- 
land the festival takes place at the close of 
the reaping, not the ingathering. When the 
sickle is laid down, and the last sheaf of corn 
set on end, it is said that they have ' got the 
kern ; ' the reapers announce the fact by loud 
shouting, and an image crowned with wheat- 
ears, and dressed in a white frock and coloured 
ribbons, is hoisted on a pole by the tallest 

1 Cf. " Forty Years in a Moorland Parish," by Canon 
Atkinson, p. 240. 

150 



Harvest Customs 

and strongest men of the party. All circle 
round this 'kern-baby* or harvest-queen, 
and proceed to the barn, where they set the 
image on high, and proceed to do justice to 
the harvest-supper." In some places " this 
nodding sheaf, the symbol of the god," is 
quite small, fashioned with much care and 
neatness, and plaited with wonderful skill ; 
in others it is large and cumbersome, taking 
a strong man's strength to bear it. 

In Scotland it is called " the maiden," and 
is dressed like a doll. It is preserved in the 
farmhouse above the chimneypiece. The 
youngest girl in the harvest-field is supposed 
to have the privilege of cutting "the maiden." 
Its head is formed of ears of oats ; a broad 
blue ribband is tied in a bow round the neck, 
and a skirt of paper completes the costume 
of "the maiden." In the north-east of 
Scotland the last sheaf is known as the 
"clyack," or "cailleach" (old woman), 1 and is 
dressed up and made to look as much like 
an old woman as possible. It has a white 
cap, a dress, a little shawl over the shoulders, 
fastened with a sprig of heather, an apron 
turned up to form a pocket, which is stuffed 
with bread and cheese, and a sickle is stuck 
in the string of the apron at the back. At 
the harvest-feast the cailleach is placed at the 

1 Illustration of this appears in Folk-Lore of June 1895, and in 
the Transactions of the Folk-Lore Congress, 1891. 



Old English Customs 

head of the table, the company drink to her, 
and in the evening the lads dance with her. 
She is therefore the recipient of much honour. 
Scottish harvest customs are extremely in- 
teresting, but we may only just venture to cross 
the Tweed, as our English customs only con- 
cern us now, and the manners of our Scottish 
neighbours would require a separate volume. 

In Cornwall the last sheaf is called " the 
neck," and is gaily decked with ribbons. In 
some places two strong-voiced men are chosen, 
and placed one with the sheaf, and the other 
on the opposite side of the valley. One 
shouts, " I've gotten it." The other replies, 
" What hast gotten ? " The first then shouts 
back triumphantly, " I've gotten the neck." 

In Devonshire, the home of many old cus- 
toms, a similar practice prevails. A small 
quantity of the ears of the last corn is twisted 
or tied together into a curious kind of figure, 
which is brought home with great acclama- 
tions, hung up over the table, and kept till 
the next year. The owner would think it 
extremely unlucky to part with this, which 
is called " a knack." ' 

The reapers whoop and holloa 

" A knack ! a knack ! a knack ! 
Well cut, well bound, well shocked." 



i "Folk-lore Rhymes," G. F. Northall, p. 257. This word is 
evidently the same as the Cornish "neck," mentioned above. 

152 



Harvest Customs 

The old song which accompanied the last 
load to the barn varies in different districts. 
The usual form is 

" Harvest-home ! harvest-home ! 
We've ploughed, we've sowed, 
We've reaped, we've mowed, 
We've brought home every load. 
Hip, hip, hip, harvest-home ! " 

Or as they say in Berkshire 

" Whoop, whoop, whoop, harvest-whoam ! " 

Very attractive are the glimpses of rustic 
life which harvest customs give, especially 
in East Anglia. " The sun is setting behind 
the old windmill as we cross the field of 
stubble ; from a group of harvesters comes a 
woman who, with a low curtsey, asks us for 
* largess.' As we pass along we hear merry 
shouts and cheering, and presently round the 
corner of the road comes a fine team of 
horses, mounted by two lads dressed in the 
garb of women, while the waggon is filled 
with the last load of corn, and merry youths 
and maidens ride above it. The waggon 
stops, and the rider gives us three cheers, 
and then on they go to the village -green 
amidst much laughter and bright songs." 
Evidently the East Anglian folk have not 
quite forgotten how to laugh, as one of their 
chroniclers asserts. 

'53 



Old English Customs 

The custom is known locally as "Hallering 
Largess," and has been described as a certain 
rhythmic chant, rendered with action and 
gesture, and followed by a certain number 
of shouts, in return for gifts. When they 
have received the offering they shout thrice 
the words, " Halloo, largess," which may be 
a corruption of a la largesse. The ritual 
appears to be as follows : The labourers 
gather in front of the house, and form a ring 
by joining hands. They bow their heads 
very low towards the centre of the circle, and 
give utterance to a low deep mutter, saying, 
"Hoo-Hoo-Hoo;" then they jerk their 
heads backwards and utter a shrill shriek of 
"Ah! Ah!" repeated several times. The 
Lord of the Largess, the leader of the band, 
then cries, " Holla, largess," which is echoed 
by the company, and thus the performance 
ends, a very interesting survival of old 
usages. 

At Duxford, Cambridgeshire, a sheaf of 
corn is placed on the top of the cart, and 
the women rush out of the houses and throw 
water on the returning harvesters, and shout 
as loud as they can. 

The Manx folk have a curious custom of 
ascending the hills on old Lammas Day, 
August 1 2th, and it is supposed to be related 
in some way to Jephthah's daughter bewailing 
her virginity upon the mountains. People 



Harvest Customs 

who do not climb the hills on that day 
read devoutly the account of Jephthah's 
daughter. 

In Scotland the reapers seize and " dump " 
any one who visits the harvest-field. The 
visitor is lifted up by his or her ankles and 
armpits, and the lower part of his person l is 
brought into violent contact with the ground. 
"Head-money" is usually demanded, and, 
if that is refused, the person has to under- 
go the unpleasant experience of being 
" dumped." 

The old custom still exists at the parish 
church of Driffield, Yorks, of ringing the 
harvest-bell at five o'clock in the morning 
and at eight in the evening every day during 
harvest. In some parishes in Yorkshire it 
used to be the custom to ring the bell at 
8 A.M., as a signal that people might begin 
to glean. 

In Hertfordshire the custom of horn-blow- 
ing during harvest still exists, and seems to 
be peculiar to that county. 

There are many harvest-home songs in use, 
and here is one from Berkshire : 

" Here's a health unto our master, 

The founder of our feast ; 
We hope his soul to God will go 
When he do get his rest. 

1 Cf. " Notes on Harvest Customs ; " Folk- Lore, 1889. 

1 SS 



Old English Customs 

May everything now prosper 

That he do take in hand ; 
For we be all his servants 

As works at his command. 

(Chorus] So drink, boys, drink, 

And see ye do not spill, 
For if ye do ye shall drink two, 
For that be master's will. 

Here's a health unto our mistress, 

That giveth us good ale ; 
We hope she'll live for many a year 

To cheer us without fail. 
She is the best provider 

In all the country round ; 
So take your cup and drink it up, 

None like her can be found." 
(Chorus as before.} 

This song is also sung at Surrey harvest- 
suppers. Full bumpers of ale are drunk by 
couples at a time, as with a loving-cup, 
while the song is sung, and if any is spilt, 
the ceremony is repeated until the bumpers 
are drained of their contents. {Guildford 
Newspaper. ) 

From Surrey we also have the following 
curious harvest ditty : 

" I've been to France, and I've been to Dover ; 
I've been roving all the world over, 

Over, and over, and over. 
Drink half your liquor, and turn the bowl over, 

Over, and over, and over." 

156 



Harvest Customs 

The verse is sung while a horn of ale is kept 
by one of the company balanced on a wooden 
bowl held upside down, and an endeavour is 
made to drink half the contents. When the 
ale is finished, the horn is tossed up in the 
air and caught in the bowl. (Guildford 
Newspaper^) 

The harvest-home in the good old days 
was a joy and delight to both old and young. 
Shorn of much of its merriment and quaint 
customs, it still exists; but modern habits and 
notions have deprived it of much of its old 
spirit and light-heartedness. In spite of agri- 
cultural depression and diminished income, 
it would be well to preserve this feature of 
old country-life, which confers many benefits 
on all. When labourers simply regard harvest- 
time as a season when they can earn a few 
shillings more than usual, and take no further 
interest in their work or in the welfare of 
their master, all brightness vanishes from 
their industry ; their minds become sordid 
and mercenary, and mutual trust, good-feel- 
ing, and fellowship cease to exist. In some 
places the only harvest-custom which survives 
is that of drinking all the cider or ale that is 
left, and singing in the fields as long as the 
drink lasts. 

The old rejoicings at sheep-shearing are 
kept up in some measure in Dorsetshire, 
when the small farmers invite their friends 



Old English Customs 

to help them in the shearing, and entertain 
their guests with accustomed hospitality. 
This is a very ancient custom, which is alluded 
to by Tusser in his " Five Hundred Points 
of Husbandry " in the following lines : 

" Wife, make us a dinner ; spare flesh, neither corn ; 
Make wafers and cakes, for our sheep must be shorn ; 
At sheep-shearing neighbours none other things 

crave, 
But good cheer and welcome like neighbours to 

have." 

Roast-goose is still a standing dish at 
Michaelmas, and the presentation of geese 
by those who have them to bestow is still 
often observed a practice certainly to be 
encouraged. The custom probably arose 
from the usual practice of tenants bringing 
fat geese to their landlord when they paid 
their rent, in order to propitiate him, and to 
make him kind and lenient in the matters of 
rent, repairs, and the renewal of leases. 

One of the more curious of local customs 
was observed, until recent years, on August 
22nd at Biddenham, Bedfordshire. In that 
village, shortly before noon, a little proces- 
sion of villagers was formed, who conveyed 
a white rabbit, decorated with scarlet ribbons, 
through the village, singing a hymn in honour 
of St. Agatha. All the young unmarried 
women who happened to meet this proces- 



St. Crispin s Day 

sion extended the first two fingers of the 
left hand, pointing towards the rabbit, at the 
same time saying 

" Gustin, Gustin, lacks a bier ! 
Maidens, maidens, bury him here." 

This custom is said to date from the first 
Crusade. It is certainly curious, and its 
origin is shrouded in obscurity. Several 
works on popular customs speak of it as 
still surviving ; but the Vicar of Biddenham 
informs us that the custom does not appear 
to have existed during the lifetime of the 
present inhabitants. 

October 25th, St. Crispin's Day, is ob- 
served by the shoemakers of Scarborough, 
and also in parts of Northumberland and 
Sussex, who hold a dinner on this feast of 
their patron-saint, and burn flambeaux on 
the sands. These torches are probably sub- 
stitutes for the altar lights which the Shoe- 
makers' Guild provided for their Chantry 
Chapel in pre-Reformation times. The Re- 
formation put out the lights, but the torches 
and the dinner remained. 

\Note." Kern-baby." Mrs. Gomme has 
three specimens of the kern-baby ; one 
from Devonshire, one from Cornwall, and 
one from Scotland ; but she believes that 
the custom has quite recently died out in 
those parts of the country.] 

'59 



CHAPTER IX 

The Fifth of November Berks songs Beckley 
and Ileddington, Oxon Town and Gown at 
Oxford Harcake or Tharcake, Lancashire 
Local cakes St. Clement's Day " Souling" on 
All Souls' Day Allan apples at Pcnzance 
Butchers' custom. 

OUR historical customs, or customs which 
owe their origin to events in the history of 
our country, are not very numerous. Besides 
Royal Oak Day, which has already been de- 
scribed, we have the famous commemoration 
of the discovery of Gunpowder Plot on 
November 5th. This is a very popular fes- 
tival, when bonfires are lighted everywhere, 
and "guys"- a perpetual memorial of the 
famous Guy Fawkes are burnt with much 
accompaniment of squibs and crackers. 

Probably few of those who take part in these 
functions recall to mind that November 5th 
was instituted by the House of Commons as 
" a holiday for ever in thankfulness to God 
for our deliverance and detestation of the 
Papists ; " but this ignorance does not pre- 
vent them from keeping up the custom and 
1 60 



Guy Fawkes Day 

enjoying the excitement of the bonfire and 
fireworks. 

The usual rhyme which the youths repeat 
when they carry round the guy and collect 
fuel for their bonfires or largess for them- 
selves is as follows : 

" Please to remember the Fifth of November, 

Gunpowder treason and plot ; 
I see no reason why gunpowder treason 
Should ever be forgot." 

A common variation of the last two lines 
is 

" When the king and his train had nearly been slain, 
Therefore it shall not be forgot." 

The Berkshire boys used to add the 
words : 

" Our king's a valiant soldier 

With his blunderbuss on his shoulder ; 

Cocks his pistol, draws his rapier ; 

Pray give us something for his sake here. 

A stick and a stake, for our good king's sake. 

If you won't give one, I'll take two ; 

The better for me, the worse for you. 
Chorus 

Holloa, boys, holloa, boys, make the bells ring ; 
Holloa, boys, holloa, boys, God save the Queen." 

" King " is evidently the correct rhyme 
for " ring," but on the accession of her 
161 L 



Old English Customs 

Majesty Queen Victoria the correctness of 
the poetry was sacrificed to the appropriate- 
ness of the address to the reigning sovereign. 
Some of the rhymes tell us of the nefarious 
deeds of wicked Guy Fawkes, and the follow- 
ing, we believe, is still extant : 

" Guy Fawkes and his companions did contrive 
To blow the House of Parliament up alive 
With threescore barrels of powder down below, 
To prove Old England's wicked overthrow ; 
But by God's mercy all of them got catched, 
With their dark lantern and their lighted match. 
Ladies and gentlemen sitting by the fire, 
Please put hands in pockets and give us our 

desire ; 

While you can drink one glass, we can drink two, 
The better for we, and none the worse for you." 
Rumour, rumour, pump a deny, 
Prick his heart and burn his body, 
And send his soul to Purgatory." 

From Beckley, Oxon, we have the follow- 
ing rhyme, which is still said by the youths 
when collecting wood for their fire : 

" Don't you know 'tis the Fifth of November, 
Gunpowder Plot ? We've come to beg 
A stick or a stake, 
For King George's sake. 
If you don't give us one, 

We'll take two ; 
Then ricket a racket, 
Your door shall go." 
162 



Guy Fawkes Day 

At Heading ton, in the same county, the 
boys sing the following verses : 

" Remember, remember, 
The Fifth of November, 

Bonfire night ; 
We want a faggot 

To make it alight. 
Hatchets and duckets, 

Beetles and wedges, 
If you don't give us some 

We'll pull your old hedges ; 
If you don't give us one, 

We'll take two ; 
The better for us, 

And the worse for you." 

A slight menace is very common in these 
Gunpowder Plot ditties. At several places 
at the present time it is customary to cele- 
brate Guy Fawkes Day with much elaborate 
ceremonial, torchlight processions, composed 
of people in very fancy dress costume. The 
display of fireworks in many towns is very 
grand and elaborate. At Hampstead very 
elaborate preparations are made ; several 
bonfire clubs combine in making the display 
effective, and the procession is usually very 
picturesque and imposing. One car at the 
last celebration, representing the British Isles 
and the Colonies, with attendant beefeaters 
and pages, was sent by Sir Augustus Harris. 

On the South Coast these observances 

163 



Old English Customs 

are usual in several towns. At Rye the 
" Borough Bonfire Boys " organise a pro- 
cession, light bonfires, and burn effigies. At 
Folkstone the procession consists of carts 
and waggons, gaily decorated, and containing 
tableaux vivants, contributed by the Friendly 
Society. The Ancient Order of Druids send 
a party representing the Ancient Britons. 
A blacksmith's forge, a butcher's car, fire 
brigades, and other shows, make up the pro- 
cession, and torches and Chinese lanterns, and 
bands of music, add brightness to the festival. 
At Marylebone and Bermondsey the bonfire 
clubs are much in evidence. Political guys 
are not unknown, and at the last occasion 
the Sultan of Turkey thrashing a poor Ar- 
menian was one of the representations. In 
the old Middlesex suburban town of EnfieJd 
a huge fancy-dress procession is formed on 
the evening of Guy Fawkes Day ; thousands 
of people throng the streets, and fires of all 
colours blaze along the line of route. Groups 
allegorical of local traditions associated with 
the old Enfield chase, Colonel Somerset's stag- 
hounds, the Herts Yeomanry, fire brigades, 
and schools, form interesting features in the 
long procession. Money is collected for the 
Cottage Hospital, and a monster bonfire is 
lighted on the green and the traditional guy 
burned. 

The almost universal observance of the 
164 



Town and Gown at Oxford 

day, and the similarity of the modes of com- 
memorating the discovery of the Gunpowder 
Plot, obviate the necessity of recording the 
manners and customs of the English people 
on this occasion. 

At Oxford, the " Town and Gown " rows 
on November 5th, though shorn of some of 
their ferocity, are not quite things of the 
past, and the College authorities have recently 
adopted the fashion of " gating " their men, 
in order to prevent the usual encounters. 
Why on this particular night the gentlemen 
of the University and the roughs of the town 
should seek to engage in deadly conflict and 
fight and bruise each other, is one of the 
mysteries of civilisation. One is not alto- 
gether surprised to read of the stern battles 
of mediaeval times, when there was much 
antagonism between Town and Gown, and the 
butchers fought with their cleavers, and were 
therefore compelled to set up their shops 
outside the city walls, and when the tower of 
Carfax Church was obliged to be taken down, 
as it became a point of vantage for the belli- 
gerents. But why these contests should be 
carried on in the nineteenth century, and 
waged only on the night of the famous Fifth, 
are questions which no one seems able to 
decide. 

In Lancashire, in the neighbourhood of 
Oldham, it is still the custom at the begin- 
165 



Old English Customs 

ning of November to make what is called 
Harcake. The origin of this custom is lost 
in the mists of antiquity. It is probably a 
relic of an ancient pagan festival. Har was 
one of the names of Odin, and the word 
appears in many place-names in the neigh- 
bourhood, e.g.) Harrof, Hargrave, Hargate, 
&c. In this making of harcake there is 
doubtless preserved the memorial of an old 
Norse festival. 

In Nodal and Milner's " Lancashire Glos- 
sary " the word is given as Tharcake ; but this 
need not sever its connection with Northern 
mythology, as Tharcake or Thor-cake sug- 
gests the name of the deity in whose honour 
the special cake was eaten. It is a kind of 
oatmeal gingerbread, made of meal, treacle, 
and butter, and is sometimes called parkins. 

The whole subject of special local cakes is 
full of interest. There are the Eccles cakes, 
made at Eccles, in Lancashire, which resemble 
the famous cakes of Banbury. Bath is famous 
for its buns as well as its waters, and Rich- 
mond for its maids -of -honour. Everton 
boasts of its toffy, and Shrewsbury of its 
cakes, alluded to in Shenstone's " Schoolmis- 
tress " when he sings 

" Ah ! midst the rest, may flowers adorn his grave 
Whose art did first these dulcet cates display." 

The eve of All Saints' Day (November ist), 
166 



Souling 

anciently called All-Hallow Eve, was a great 
night for the witches, especially in Lancashire ; 
but the old beldames have fled away on their 
broomsticks, and old customs have gone with 
them. But on All Souls' Day, November 2nd 
which was first instituted in the monastery of 
Clugny in 993 A.D., it is still customary for 
children to go " a-souling," and soul-cakes 
are still offered and eaten in Shropshire on 
this day. One of the numerous versions of 
the " soulers " is as follows : 

" Soul ! soul ! for a soul-cake ! 
I pray, good missis, a soul-cake ! 
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry, 
Any good thing to make us merry. 
One for Peter, two for Paul, 
Three for Him who made us all. 
Up with the kettle and down with the pan, 
Give us good alms and we'll be gone. 

" The roads are very dirty, 

My shoes are very thin, 
I've got a little pocket 

To put a penny in. 
If you haven't got a penny, 

A ha'penny will do ; 
If you haven't got a ha'penny, 

May God help you." 

This is sung at Wellington, Salop. 

There are many variants of these rhymes, 1 
which need not be enumerated. Let it suffice 

1 Cf. " English Folk-Rhymes," p. 220. 

167 



Old English Customs 

to mention one Staffordshire rhyme, which 
runs as follows : 

" Soul-day, soul-day, 

We've been praying for the soul departed ; 
So pray, good people, give us a cake, 
For we are all poor people, 
Well known to you before ; 
So give us a cake for charity's sake, 
And our blessing we'll leave at your door. 

Soul ! soul ! for an apple or two ; 

If you have no apples pears will do ; 

If pears are scarce, then cakes from your pan, 

Give us our souling, and we'll be gone." x 

A curious rhyme is given in Shropshire 
Folk-lore which is still sung or drawled : 

" The cock sat in the yew tree, 

The hen came chuckling by, 
I wish you all good morning, 
And a good fat pig in the sty. 
A good fat pig in the sty ! " 

" Souling " still lingers on in Cheshire. 

The Day of St. Clement (November 23rd), 
the patron saint of blacksmiths, is still ob- 
served, and St. Clement Danes' Church, 
London, has his emblem, an anchor, for its 
vane. There are many legends concerning 
the connection of " Old Clem " with the 
craft, which need not now be recorded. One 
of these relates to the time of King Alfred, 
who made St. Clement king of all other 

1 Poole's" Customs, Legends, and Superstitions of Staffordshire." 

168 



St. Clement's Day 



tradesfolk. An old traditional song, called 
the " Jolly Blacksmith," is said to have been 
sung on the occasion, and is very spirited : 

" Here's a health to jolly blacksmith, 

The best of all good fellows, 
Who works at his anvil 

While the boy blow the bellows. 
For it makes his bright hammer to rise and to fall, 
Says the old cob to the young cob and the old cob 

of all. 
Chorus. Twankie dillo, twankie dillo, dillo, dillo, dillo, 

dillo, dillo, 

With a roaring pair of bagpipes made of the green 
willow." 

The children in East Sussex still go Cat- 
terning and Clemmening, and the black- 
smiths do not forget the day. They used 
to dress up a figure of " Old Clem," and 
put him in front of the inn where they held 
their feast. The rhyme sung in Sussex is 

" Cattern' ] and Clemen' be here, here, here, 
Give us your apples and give us your beer ; 
One for Peter, two for Paul, 
Three for Him who made us all. 
Clemen' was a good man, 
Cattern' was his mother : 
Give us your best, 
And not your worst, 
And God will give your soul good rest." 

1 Cattern' = St. Catherine, whose feast is November 25th, 
formerly much observed by the Buckinghamshire lacemakers. 
169 



Old English Customs 

In the Government dockyards "Old Clem" 
is still revered, and his figure is dressed up ; 
the masters often give the blacksmiths a 
wayz-goose, a leg of pork stuffed with sage 
and onions, on this day. At the feast the 
first toast is 

" Here's to old Vulcan, as bold as a lion, 
A large shop and no iron, 
A big hearth and no coal, 
And a large pair of bellows full of holes." 

The Jolly Blacksmith's song is always sung. 
The next toast is 

" True hearts and sound bottoms, 
Checked shirts and leather aprons." 

Then follows a song beginning 

" Tubal Cain, our ancient father, 

Sought the earth for iron and ore ; 
More precious than the glittering gold, 
Be it ever so great a store." 

" To the memory of ' Old Clem/ and 
prosperity to all his descendants," is the 
toast of the evening. 

The Brighton Railway Company's smiths 
have in recent years observed these customs. 
At the White Horse Inn, Castle Street, 
London, a supper is held, and " Old Clem's" 
memory duly recorded. One of the farriers 
is dressed in a new apron with gilt tags. 
170 



Allan Apples 

The anvils used to be fired with gunpowder, 
but this part of the ceremonial has now been 
discontinued. 

" Going a-gooding " on St. Clement's Day * 
is still practised at Market Bosworth, Leices- 
tershire. The boys go round collecting apples 
and money, and sing a rhyme very similar to 
one already quoted. It runs 

" St. Clement's, St. Clement's, St. Clement's is here ; 
Apples and pears are very good cheer ; 
One for Peter (the rest as before)" 

On the nearest Saturday to Hallow E'en 
the fruiterers of Penzance display in their 
windows very large apples, known locally as 
" Allan " apples. The eating of them is 
supposed to bring good luck, and the girls 
put them under their pillows in order to 
dream of their sweethearts. 

The same custom with some variations pre- 
vails at St. Ives, in the same county. " Allan 
Day " is a great children's festival, and hun- 
dreds would deem it a great misfortune to 
go to bed on Allan night without the time- 
honoured Allan-apple beneath their pillows. 
They fully expect to dream of the future 
husband or wife, the fulfilment of the dream 
depending on the silence observed before 
eating the apple. The full ritual involves 

1 Billson's "Folk-Lore of Leicestershire." 
171 



Old English Customs 

rising before dawn and sitting under a tree, 
clad in the nightdress only, and then eating 
the Allan apple. Two results are then due ; 
the future husband or wife becomes present, 
and if (there is a great virtue in the "if") 
the sitter be not cold, then he or she will 
not be cold during the winter. The peni- 
tential ritual has however happily fallen into 
abeyance. 

A curious custom of taking a marrow- 
bone from the butchers was formerly prac- 
tised at Camborne on the Sunday nearest to 
Martinmas, and has now been revived. A 
number of men, known as the " Homage 
Committee," go round the market with ham- 
pers, which are soon filled with marrow-bones, 
and afterwards visit the public-house as 
" tasters." One night in November is known 
in Padstow as "Skip-skop night," when the 
boys in the place go about with a stone in a 
sling, with which they strike violently the 
doors of the houses, and ask for money to 
make a feast. 

Butchers still in some few places keep up 
the custom of serenading a newly married 
couple of their own trade with the " marrow 
bones and cleavers." This serenade takes 
place on the eve of the marriage night, 
outside the house of the newly married pair, 
in return for which the serenaders expect 
money or ale and cake. 
172 



CHAPTER X 

Local customs Gloves in Church of Abbots Ann, 
Andover Dunmotv Flitch Skimmerton-riding 
in Wilts and Dorset Riding the Stang. 

VERY remarkable are many of the local 
customs which linger on in some of 
our towns and villages, and which are 
not confined to any special day in the 
calendar. 

At Abbots Ann, near Andover, it is the 
custom to hang effigies of hands and arms 
near the pulpit of the church on the left- 
hand side of the nave, outside the chancel 
arch, in memory of any girl who died un- 
married. On the right of the arch chaplets 
are hung. These effigies are probably imita- 
tions of gloves, as in early times it was 
not unusual to hang up in the churches 
mittens or gloves at funerals. Nor was 
the custom confined to the memorials of 
the dead. 

Sometimes to hang up a glove in a church 
was the authorised method of challenging a 
rival to mortal combat. Sir Walter Scott in 



Old English Customs 

his " Rokeby " * alludes to this practice in 
the lines 

" Edmund, thy years were scarcely nine 
When challenging the clans of Tyne 
To bring their best my brand to prove, 
O'er Hexham's altar hung my glove ; 
But Tynedale nor in tower nor town 
Held champion meet to take it down." 

In the Life of Barnard Gilpin (1517- 
1583), Rector of Hough ton-le-Spring, it is 
recorded that on entering his church the 
worthy man observed a glove hanging up, 
and was informed by the sexton that it was 
meant as a challenge to any one who would 
take it down. The vicar removed the glove, 
and admonished his congregation on the 
wickedness of such savage practices. {Notes 
and Queries.} 

The custom of hanging up in the churches 
garlands of roses with a pair of gloves cut 
out of white paper, which had been carried 
before the corpses of young unmarried 
women at their funerals, used to prevail in 
many parishes in Derbyshire. However, 
during recent years they have almost all been 
removed. We understand that the garlands 
are still hanging in Ashover Church, and 
possibly at Flamborough, Yorkshire. The 
practice seems to have been very general in 

1 Canto vi. 21. 
174 



Dun mow Flitch 

the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, 
and lingered long in Derbyshire. The fol- 
lowing lines attributed to Anna Seward 
refer to the custom : 

" The gloves suspended by the garland's side, 
White as its snowy flowers with ribband tied ; 
Dear village ! long may these wreaths funereal 

spread 
Simple memorials of the early dead." 

The Dunmow Flitch is a well-known matri- 
monial prize for which happy couples who 
have never quarrelled during the first year 
of their wedded life strive to establish their 
claims before an impartial jury composed of 
six maidens and six bachelors. There is a 
judge arrayed in a full-bottom wig, and 
advocates plead for and against the claims 
of the suitors. The examination and cross- 
examination of the claimants usually occasion 
much mirth, and when the couples are pro- 
nounced worthy of the flitch, they are chaired 
and carried round the meadow, finally halting 
at an open-air stage, where they publicly take 
the customary oath, kneeling on rough stones. 

This custom has not been observed con- 
tinuously. For several years it entirely 
lapsed, until in 1855 the historical novelist 
Harrison Ainsworth revived the custom and 
presented the prize. He wrote a novel 
entitled " The Flitch of Bacon." The fol- 



Old English Customs 

lowing record of the proceedings in the year 
1701 is full of interest : 



<c 



Dunmow 



Nuper Priorat. 



At a court barren of the right wor- 
shippful Sir Thomas May, Knight, 
then holden on Friday, the 



da ^ of J une ' in the ^ r of our Lord 
1701, before Thomas Wheeler, Gent, 

steward of the said manor, it was 
thus enrolled : 

/Elizabeth Beaumont, spinster 
" Homage < Henriette Beaumont, spinster 



i 

lAnnabella Beaumont, spinster 

Jane Beaumont, spinster 
Mary Chester, spinster 



Jury. 



" Be it remembered that at this court it is 
found and presented by homage aforesaid, 
that William Parsley and Jane his wife have 
been married for the space of three years last 
past, and it is likewise found that William 
Parsley and Jane his wife, by means of their 
quiet and peaceable, tender and loving coha- 
bitation for the space of three years aforesaid, 
are fit and qualified persons to be admitted 
by the court to receive the ancient and 
accustomed oath, whereby to entitle them- 
selves to have the bacon of Dunmow delivered 
unto them according to the custom of the 
manor. Whereupon at this court in full 
and open court came the said William 
Parsley and Jane his wife in their persons, 
and humbly prayed that they might be per- 



Dunmow Flitch 

mitted to take the oath. Whereupon the 
steward and the jury and other officers pro- 
ceeding with the usual solemnity to the 
ancient and accustomed place for the admini- 
stration of the oath and receiving the said 
bacon ; that is to say, two great stones lying 
near the church door, where the said William 
Parsley and Jane kneeling down on the two 
stones, the said steward did administer the oath 
in these words, or to the effect following 

" ' You do swear by custom of confession, 
That you never made nuptial transgression, 
Nor since you were married man and wife 
By household brawls or contentious strife, 
Or otherwise at bed or board, 
Offended each other in deed or word. 
Or in a twelvemonth's time and a day 
Repented not in thought anyway, 
Or since the church clerk said Amen 
Wished yourselves unmarried again, 
But continue true and in desire 
As when you joined hands in the quire.' 

" And immediately thereupon William Par- 
sley and Jane Parsley, claiming the said bacon, 
the court pronounced sentence for the same in 
these words, or to the effect following 

" * Since to these conditions without any fear 
Of your own accord you do freely swear, 
A whole gammon of bacon you do receive 
And bear it away with love and good leave ; 
For this is the custom of Dunmow well known ; 
Though the pleasure be ours, the bacon's your own.' 
177 M 



Old English Customs 

And accordingly a gammon of bacon was 
delivered unto the said William Parsley and 
Jane Parsley with the usual solemnity. 

Ex d p r - Th- Wheeler, gent, steward, 
Will m Hague." 1701 (William III.). 
The Spectator observed with some cynical 
reflection that when the bacon was first given 
away only two couples successfully formu- 
lated their claims. The first couple was a 
sea-captain and his wife, who had not seen 
each other after their wedding until the day 
the prize was awarded ; the second was an 
honest pair who resided in the neighbour- 
hood of Dunmow, the husband being a man 
of plain good sense and a peaceable temper 
the woman was dumb. A recent claimant 
was a Yeoman of the Royal Bodyguard, over 
sixty years of age, and the bravery which 
carried him through the Crimea and the 
Indian Mutiny assisted him doubtless in 
undergoing the trial of procuring the Dun- 
mow Flitch. 

Those who are not so fortunate in their 
pursuit of matrimonial bliss have sometimes 
most unpleasant experiences to undergo. In 
cases of great scandal and immorality the 
villagers take the law into their own hands, 
and organise a serenade of rough music in 
order to express their disapproval. It is 
called a Skimmenton or Skimmenton-Riding 
in Wilts, or sometimes Housset, Hooset, or 



Skimmenton 

Wooset. In Berks the "Hooset" is a 
draped horse's-head, carried at a " Hooset 
Hunt." The orthodox procedure in North 
Wilts on the occasion of a Skimmenton is as 
follows : The party assembles before the 
house of the offenders, armed with tin pots 
and pans, and perform a serenade for three 
successive nights. Then after an interval of 
three nights the serenade is repeated for 
three more. Then another interval of the 
same duration, and a third repetition of the 
rough music for three nights. On the last 
night the effigies of the offenders are burned. 
The word and the custom have emigrated to 
America. It is the strongest expression of 
outraged public opinion that a country dis- 
trict is capable of conveying. It checks open 
profligacy, brands with infamy all gross in- 
stances of licentiousness, and exposes to 
ridicule those couples who by their quarrels 
disturb the quiet and order of the neigh- 
bourhood. The three causes for riding the 
Skimmenton are (i.) When a man and his 
wife quarrel, and he gives up to her; (ii.) 
when a woman is unfaithful to her husband, 
and he patiently submits without resenting 
her conduct ; (iii.) any grossly licentious con- 
duct on the part of married persons. In the 
neighbourhood of Dorking, Surrey, this kind 
of rough music is common. 

In Dorsetshire it is called Skimmington ; 
179 



Old English Customs 

in Scotland " Riding the stang," the peccant 
party being seated across a pole (or stang) in 
no very comfortable position. Sometimes 
they used to sweep the doors of those whom 
they threatened with similar discipline. A 
few years ago a famous Skimmerton took 
place at Whitechurch Canonicorum, West 
Dorset. In the dusk of the evening a strange 
noise was heard of the beating of trays and 
kettles, and three grotesquely attired figures 
were escorted by a procession of persons in 
various eccentric costumes, who paraded the 
village. The figures represented three per- 
sons well known to the villagers, a male and 
two females. The latter were carried by 
donkeys, and one had a very long tongue 
tied back to the neck. After their peram- 
bulations the processionists conveyed their 
figures to a field where a gallows was erected, 
on which the effigies were hung and after- 
wards burnt. 1 Mr. Thomas Hardy has im- 
mortalised a Skimmerton-riding in his novel 
entitled " The Mayor of Casterbridge." 

" Riding the stang " ' was once a very 
popular custom in the North of England. 
At the Langwathby Rounds, recently a 
flourishing village festival, all who were 
found at work on the day of the feast had 

1 Proceedings of Dorset Field Club, vol. xiv. p. 182. 

2 Derived from the Saxon word steng (Danish stang), signify- 
ing a long bar or pole. 

I 80 



Riding the Stang 

to ride the stang or pay a forfeit. The 
amenities of Northallerton still include the 
time - honoured corrective of riding the 
stang. A few years ago an occasion for the 
exercise of this forcible expression of public 
opinion was furnished by an ostler who had 
proved unfaithful to his recently married 
bride. In a small pony-cart an effigy was 
placed, and the ringing of a bell and the 
shouts of the populace created much excite- 
ment. This was continued for three nights, 
and on the last the final riding of the stang 
took place. Two figures were placed in the 
cart, and carried round the town, after 
which a bonfire was lit on the green below 
the church, and after repeating a doggrel 
rhyme, the crowd proceeded to burn the 
figures. It is not often, we hope, that the 
necessity for a genuine Skimmenton or rid- 
ing the stang arises, and the custom is of 
course intermittent ; but offenders would be 
wise not to assume that this notable ex- 
pression of public opinion has quite passed 
away. 



181 



CHAPTER XI 

Holy wells Scottish superstition Pin-wells 
Rag-wells Well-dressing in Derbyshire Tis- 
sington well - dressing Endon, Staffordshire 
Youlgrave, Derbyshire St. Alkmund's, Derby 
Wishing-wells Walsingham, Norfolk. 

MANY folk customs linger around wells 
and springs. They are the haunts of the 
nymphs and sylvan deities, who must be 
propitiated by votive offerings, and are re- 
vengeful when neglected. They cure all 
manner of diseases, and the genius loci must 
be reverenced with humility and conciliated 
by gifts in order that wishes may be grati- 
fied and cures effected. Town-folk may be 
ignorant of the virtues of holy wells, but in 
rural districts, where old customs linger, they 
are not yet forgotten. Amidst the sights 
and sounds of nature men are prone to 
cherish the beliefs and customs of their fore- 
fathers. In Scotland this is more especially 
the case, and the adoration of wells may be 
encountered in all parts of the country from 
John o' Groats to the Mull of Galloway. 1 

i " Past in the Present," Sir Arthur Mitchell. 
182 



Holy Wells 

Sir Arthur Mitchell states that he has seen 
at least a dozen wells in Scotland which have 
not ceased to be worshipped. The cure of 
children is a special virtue of many of these 
wells. Anxious mothers make long journeys 
to some well of fame, bathe the little invalid 
in its waters, drop an offering into them, and 
attach a bit of the child's dress to a bush 
or a tree growing by the side of the well. 
Pins and nails and bits of rag may constantly 
be seen in all parts of the Highlands at 
these hallowed springs. 1 In England too this 
custom is not unknown. There is a Rag 
well near Newcastle, so called from the 
number of shreds of clothing that adorn the 
bushes at its side. On Holy Thursday the 
fair maids of Cornwall visit St. Roche's Well, 
and throw crooked pins or pebbles into the 
water, and by the bubbles that rise to the 
surface seek to ascertain whether their sweet- 
hearts will be true or false. The same kind 
of divination is practised also at Madron 
Well, near Penzance, once very famous on 
account of the cures wrought by its waters. 
In Ireland, too, these votive offerings to the 
spirits of the streams may still be seen, and 
in Wales, Professor Rhys states that there 
is a holy well in Glamorganshire between 
Coychurch and Bridgled, where people suffer- 

1 "Past in the Present," Sir Arthur Mitchell: "Folklore of 
Scottish Lochs and Springs," Mackinlay. 

183 



Old English Customs 

ing from any malady dip a rag in the water, 
bathe the affected part, and then place the 
rag on a tree close to the well. He saw 
hundreds of these shreds covering the tree, 
and some had evidently been placed there 
recently. 1 

The custom of " well-dressing " was origi- 
nally a pagan rite held in honour of the 
nymphs, and corresponds with the ancient 
Roman Fontinalia, or annual flower-festival 
of the spirits of the streams and fountains. 
Shorn of its pagan associations and adapted 
to Christian usage, the time-honoured cus- 
tom flourishes with pristine vigour. Derby- 
shire, with the adjacent counties, is the home 
of " well-dressing." At Tissington, which 
claims to have the only real survival of the 
custom, it takes place on Ascension Day ; at 
Goulgrave on June 24th, Midsummer Day ; 
at Derby and Wirksworth at Whitsuntide ; 
at Barton on the Thursday nearest to St. 
John the Baptist's Day. Hone wrote of 
the Tissington " well-dressing " as a festivity 
which is heartily loved and earnestly antici- 
pated, one which draws the hearts of those 
who were brought up there, but whom fortune 
had cast in distant places, homeward with an 
irresistible charm. Elaborate preparations 
are made for its approach. Flowers are 
arranged in patterns to form mottoes and 

1 Folk- Lore, September 1892. 
184 



W^ell-Dressing 

texts of Scripture, as also devices, such as 
crosses, crowns, and triangles, while green 
boughs are added to complete the picture. 
A recent visitor at one of these functions 1 
says, " The name ' well-dressing ' scarcely 
gives a proper idea of these beautiful struc- 
tures. They are rather fountains or cas- 
cades, the water descending from above, 
and not rising as in a well. Their height 
varies from ten to twelve feet, and the 
original stone frontage is on this day hidden 
by a wooden erection in the form of an arch 
or some other elegant design. Over these 
planks a layer of plaster of Paris is spread, 
and whilst it is wet, flowers without leaves 
are stuck in it, forming a most beautiful 
mosaic pattern. On one the large yellow 
field-ranunculus was arranged in letters, and 
so a verse of Scripture or a hymn was re- 
called to the spectator's mind. On another 
a white dove was sculptured in the plaster 
and set in a groundwork of the humble 
violet. The daisy, which our poet Chaucer 
would gaze upon for hours together, formed 
diaper-work of red and white ; the pale 
primrose was set off by the rich red of the 
'ribes.' Nor were the coral berries of the 
holly, mountain ash, and yew forgotten ; 
they are carefully gathered and stored in 
the winter to be ready for the May Day 

1 Notes and Queries. 

185 



Old English Customs 

fete. It is scarcely possible to describe the 
vivid colouring and beautiful effect of these 
favourites of nature arranged in wreaths 
and garlands and devices of every hue. 
And then the pure sparkling water, which 
pours down from the midst of them on the 
rustic moss-grown stones beneath, completes 
the enchantment, and makes this feast of 
the ' well-flowering ' one of the most beauti- 
ful of all the old customs that are left in 
Merrie England." 

Around the first well are gathered groups 
of country-folk, while the clergyman reads 
the first of the three Psalms appointed for 
the day, and a hymn is sung. Then all 
move forward to the next well, where 
another Psalm is read and another hymn is 
sung ; the Epistle and Gospel are read at 
the last two wells. Some attribute the 
origin of the custom to a great drought 
which visited Derbyshire in 1615, when the 
wells of Tissington continued to flow, and 
provided water for the whole neighbour- 
hood; but, as we have said, we must refer 
the origin farther back to Roman times, 
and connect it with the ancient pagan 
festival. 

At Endon, in Staffordshire, the festival 

is held on Royal Oak Day, and a description 

of the proceedings is not without interest. 

There are two wells at Endon, the one 

186 



Well-Dressing 

very old and almost dry, which has long 
since fallen into disuse ; the other alone sup- 
plies the village with water. From a very 
early hour in the morning the whole village 
is astir, and the people busy themselves in 
bedecking the wells for the coming cere- 
mony. Crowds of visitors flock in from 
all parts of the district, and the village green 
swarms with eager spectators. The pro- 
ceedings are under the personal guidance 
of the vicar of the parish, and at two o'clock 
a procession of school children is formed at 
the new well, headed by a band of music. 
The children wave flags vigorously, and the 
procession marches to the old parish church, 
where a solemn service is held, and the 
villagers attend in large numbers. Hymns 
and psalms applicable to a thanksgiving 
service for water are sung, and at the con- 
clusion of the service the procession is 
re-formed, and marches back to the new 
well. Then the clergy and choir walk 
slowly round the well, singing " Rock of 
Ages " and " A Living Stream so Crystal 
Clear." The well is adorned, as at Tissing- 
ton, with a large wooden framework erected 
in front of it, covered with a surface of 
clay, and thickly studded with flowers of 
every kind of hue. " O ye wells, bless ye 
the Lord ! " was the text that garnished the 
summit. Maypole dances, including the 

187 



Old English Customs 

crowning of the May Queen, occupy the 
greater part of the afternoon, and in the 
evening the band plays for dancing, and the 
Maypole dances are repeated. After dusk 
there is a display of fireworks. At Youl- 
grave, in Derbyshire, the festival is observed 
with much spirit, the day being kept as 
a general holiday. The clubs hold their 
annual procession, headed through the vil- 
lage by bands of music, and after parading 
the streets, attend a short service in the 
parish church. Up till quite recently " well- 
dressing " was observed at Buxton, in Derby- 
shire. A friend of the writer visited the 
office of the leading local newspaper in 
order to obtain a report of the last festival, 
and was grieved to find that it had ceased 
to be observed two or three years ago. At 
St. Alkmund's, Derby, "well-dressing" is 
still practised with much solemnity, and 
the photograph of the floral decorations of 
the well on a recent occasion bears witness 
to the admirable taste and skill of the 
designers. Also at Bisley, near Stroud, 
Gloucestershire, there is an annual well- 
dressing. 

Wishing-wells exist in many places, notably 
at Walsingham, Norfolk, among the meagre 
remains of the once famous abbey. A little 
to the north-east of the site of the old 
monastic church there are two small circular 
1 88 



Wishing- Wells 

basins of stone, the waters of which had once 
miraculous efficacy in curing disorders of 
the head and stomach. They are no less 
powerful now, for they procure for the sup- 
pliant the gratification of his wishes. In 
order to attain the desired end, the votary 
must kneel on a bare stone placed between 
the wells. He must plunge to the wrist each 
hand into the water, and then think of what 
he most earnestly desires, without disclosing 
his wish to any one. The hands are then 
withdrawn, and as much of the water as can 
be contained in the hollow of each is to be 
swallowed. This wish will then be assuredly 
accomplished within a twelvemonth, if the 
efficacy of the solemn rite be not frustrated 
by the incredulity of the suppliant. A volume 
might be written of the lingering superstitions 
of the English people, of charms and portents, 
belief in witchcraft, and other kindred cults 
which die hard ; but we are at present con- 
cerned only with the existing customs of 
our race, and not with their superstitions 
and beliefs, except so far as they may be 
manifested in local usage and ceremonial 
observances. 



189 



CHAPTER XII 

Marriage customs Orange blossoms Rice- 
throwing Wedding - ring Bride s veil Shoe- 
throwing Custom at Stoke Courcy Knutsford 
custom Chopped straw at weddings Spur- 
peal Holderness customs Kissing in Somerset 
Yorkshire Dale customs Races for ribbons 
Courting customs Taking Day at Crowan 
Cornish miners' custom Shooting the bride The 
Sin-eater Funeral customs Passing bell 
Yorks funeral biscuits Corpse roads Crape on 
beehives Telling the bees Burying cheeses 
Wheat at funerals. 

1 HE three great events of human life 
birth, marriage, and death have naturally 
drawn around them some of the most curious 
customs and beliefs. The practice of many 
of them is almost universal, but few concern 
themselves with the origin and import of the 
strange rites which they so often witness. 
Almost every bride is adorned with orange 
blossoms. When did their use become 
general, and why was this particular flower 
selected ? It is well known that nuptial 
garlands are of the most remote antiquity. 
Among the Romans the bride was bound to 
190 



Marriage Customs 

have a chaplet of flowers or herbs for her 
head, and among the Saxons both bride and 
bridegroom were crowned with wreaths kept 
in the church for that purpose. The nuptial 
garlands were said to be for the most part 
rosemary or myrtle, sometimes of corn or 
flowers. In some countries it is said that 
the bride is crowned with a garland of prickles, 
and so delivered to her husband, in order 
that he might know that he had tied himself 
to a thorny pleasure. The orange is a Chinese 
plant, and in China from time immemorial 
the orange has been considered the emblem 
of good fortune. Saracen brides used these 
blossoms in their personal decoration on their 
wedding-day, which are supposed to signify 
fruitfulness. The custom was probably intro- 
duced to Western Europe by the Crusaders. 
Another explanation, which is doubtful, avers 
that the orange was the golden apple of Juno, 
which grew in the garden of the Hesperides, 
and that, as the golden apple was presented by 
that goddess to Jupiter on their wedding-day, 
so orange blossoms now adorn our brides. 
These classical interpretations of the origin 
of the custom can scarcely be accepted. 

The bride and bridegroom at weddings are 
also deluged with rice. Why is rice thrown 
on these occasions ? This custom is also of 
Chinese origin, and a curious legend is said 
to account for the origin of the practice. 
191 



Old English Customs 

Fifteen hundred years before Christ there 
lived in the province of Shansi a famous 
sorcerer called Chao. A man named P'ang 
was just going to be married, and came to 
consult the oracle. He was informed by 
Chao that he would die in six days. Not 
quite satisfied with the result of the augury, he 
consulted a sorceress, fair Peachblossom, and 
obtained the same prognostication ; but the 
sorceress promised to avert the catastrophe 
by charms. Chao was astonished to see P'ang 
walking about on the seventh day, and re- 
cognising that Peachblossom's power was 
stronger than his, he determined to destroy 
her. This could only be done by very careful 
strategy. So he went to her simple parents, 
and pretended to seek her in marriage for his 
son. The parents consented ; marriage-cards 
were duly exchanged ; but the unlucky day 
was chosen for the wedding when the Golden 
Pheasant was in the ascendant. So surely as 
the bride entered the red nuptial chair, the 
spirit-bird would destroy her with his power- 
ful beak. But wise Peachblossom knew all 
these things, and " Fear not ; I will go and 
defeat him," she said. So she ordered rice 
to be thrown out of doors, which the spirit- 
bird made haste to devour; and while his 
attention was thus occupied, Peachblossom 
stepped into the bridal chair and passed on 
her way unscathed. That is said to be the 
192 



Marriage Customs 

reason why we throw rice at weddings, and 
we hope it may always be effectual in ward- 
ing off the attacks of the Golden Pheasant. 
Whether the legend accounts for the custom 
or not, it is undoubtedly of Chinese origin, 
and probably is taken to signify a good wish 
that plenty may always follow the fortunes 
of the newly- wedded pair. 

The use of the wedding-ring dates back 
to pagan times, and the placing of it on the 
fourth finger of the left hand (a custom 
founded on the idea that on that finger 
there is a vein which proceeds directly to 
the heart) has been traced through Aulus 
Gellius, who lived A.D. 150, and Apion in 
A.D. 40, to the remote times of Egyptian 
antiquity. 

The bride's veil is a relic of the old 
" care-cloth " held over the heads of bride 
and bridegroom during the ceremony. This 
was done in Saxon times, and is also enjoined 
by both the Sarum and York Uses. 1 

We also throw old shoes after young 
married folk in order to express our wishes 
for their good fortune. Probably this was 
not the original meaning of the custom. 
The throwing a shoe after a bride was a 
symbol of renunciation of dominion and 
authority over her by her father or guar- 
dian, and this receipt of the shoe by the 

1 Cf. Notes and Queries > No. 182, &c. 

193 N 



Old English Customs 

bridegroom was an omen that the authority 
was transferred to him. 

In Kent the shoe is thrown by the prin- 
cipal bridesmaid, and the others run after 
it. It is supposed that she who gets it will 
be married first. It is then thrown amongst 
the men, and he who is hit will be first 
wedded. 

There are several wedding customs which 
are peculiar to localities. At Stoke Courcy, 
Bridgwater, there is an old custom, which is 
also found at a few other places in Somer- 
set. A chain or rope is drawn across the 
street, and the bridal party are not allowed 
to pass on their way home until the bride- 
groom has satisfied the demands of the 
holders for money wherewith to drink the 
health of the happy couple. The same cus- 
tom prevails at Minehead. Formerly a chain 
of flowers was used. Now men hold ropes 
across the road in six or seven places at short 
intervals, expecting money at each place be- 
fore the wedding carriage is allowed to pass. 

At Knutsford, Cheshire, silver sand is 
spread on the pavement in front of the 
bride's house as soon as she sets out for 
the church. The sand is arranged in the 
form of wreaths of flowers, half-moons, and 
mottoes, and good wishes for the bride's 
happiness are inscribed. Other houses in 
the street are also similarly adorned, and 
194 



Marriage Customs 

the numerous flowers of sand and hearty 
good wishes greet the bride on her return- to 
her home. 

The origin of this is thus explained. 
King Canute forded a neighbouring brook, 
and sat down to shake the sand out of his 
shoes; while he was doing this a bridal 
party passed by, and he shook the sand in 
front of them, and wished them joy, and as 
many children as there were grains of sand. 

Mrs. Gaskell wrote that when she was 
married all the houses in the town were 
sanded, and these were the two favourite 
verses inscribed on the sand : 

" Long may they live, 

Happy may they be, 
Blest with content, 

And from misfortune free." 

" Long may they live, 

Happy may they be, 
Blest with a numerous 
Pro-ge-ny." 

Unpopular brides in the North have 
chopped straw or chaff scattered in front 
of their houses, and this mode of expressing 
displeasure is sometimes employed in the 
case of offenders who outrage the moral 
feelings of their neighbours. This popular 
indignation is sometimes shown against a 
wife-beater by scattering chaff or straw in 



Old English Customs 

front of his house amidst groans and angry 
cries. This custom is similar to the Ger- 
man practice, when only chaste maidens were 
allowed to wear the bridal wreath ; if one of 
sullied reputation ventured to assume it, the 
wreath was torn from her head, and some- 
times replaced with one of straw, while on 
the eve of her marriage chaff or chopped 
straw was scattered before her door. In 
" Westmorland dialect " it is stated that a 
girl, when her lover proves unfaithful, is, by 
way of consolation, rubbed with pease-straw 
by the neighbouring lads ; and when a North 
Country youth loses his sweetheart by her 
marriage with a rival, the same sort of com- 
fort is administered by the lasses of the 
village. 

The custom of spreading chaff before a 
house door prevails at Stratford-on Avon. 
" That is the way our people show their feel- 
ings for wife-beaters," explained a native of 
the place. 

In the Midland and Northern counties a 
peal is rung on the evening of the Sunday 
after the publication of the banns. This is 
called " Spur-peal," and the Sunday is known 
as " Spur-Sunday," to spur meaning to ask 
(Scottish spier). "To put in the spur- 
rings," signifies to give the banns to the 
clergyman, and to be " spurred up " is to 
have the banns published. 
196 



Marriage Customs 

At Holderness the young folks pour hot 
water on the door-steps after a wedding, in 
order that other marriages might flow. The 
idea seems to be to keep the threshold warm 
for another bride, and not to suggest any 
unpleasant prophecies with regard to the 
future of the newly-wedded pair. 

At Halse and Bishops Lydeard, Somerset, 
it is customary for the bridegroom to kiss 
the bride during the marriage ceremony 
after placing the ring on her finger. This 
is a survival of the old nuptial kiss, which 
formed part of the solemn ceremonial of 
marriage according to the Sarum Use. 

The Cornish maids and men have a custom 
useful for the encouragement of matrimony. 
At Crowan, on the Sunday previous to 
Prayes Crowan fair (July i6th), they go to 
the parish church, and at the end of the 
service hasten to Clowance Park, where a 
large crowd is assembled. Here the young 
men select their partners for the forthcoming 
fair; and as sometimes rivals contend for 
the same beauty, and as sometimes the 
beauty rejects the generous offers of eager 
swains, contentions arise, and tussles ensue 
which afford much amusement to the spec- 
tators. "Taking Day," as it is called in 
Clowance Park, is responsible for many 
happy weddings. 

At Eddinbury, Cheshire, a lover is required 
197 



Old English Customs 

to pay his footing on commencing courting. 
Recently the happy man refused to conform 
to this established usage. A huge flour-bag 
was therefore produced, in which the unfor- 
tunate lover was enveloped. It is not stated 
whether his ludicrous appearance caused the 
lady to change her mind. 

Courtship has its customs too. Girls in 
Buckinghamshire are wont to pin their 
woollen stockings to the wall, and repeat 
the following rhyme : 

" I hang my stocking on the wall, 

Hoping my true love for to call ; 
May he neither rest, sleep, nor happy be, 
Until he comes and speaks to me." 



Another custom, when a lover is faithless, 
is to prick the " wedding " finger, and with 
the blood write upon paper her own name 
and that of the favoured swain, afterwards 
to form three rings (still with the blood) 
joined underneath the writing, dig a hole in 
the ground, and bury the paper, keeping the 
whole matter a secret from every one. This 
is believed to be an unfailing charm. 

To see her future husband in a dream, 
a maiden, on taking off her boots, must 
place them T-square fashion, and pointed in 
the direction of the nearest church. She 
must then say 

198 




Courtship 

" I set my boots in the shape of a T, 
Hoping my true love for to see ; 
The shape of his body, the colour of his hair, 
And the daily apparel my true love doth 
wear." 

Then she must get into bed backwards, 
preserving strict silence. This procedure is 
to be repeated twice, and then the future 
husband will appear without fail. 1 

In East Lancashire Friday evening is not 
considered a correct or suitable time for 
courtship. The first person spying a couple 
so engaged enters the house, seizes the frying- 
pan, and beats on it a tattoo. This arouses 
the neighbours, who give a warm reception 
to the offending couple if they do not with- 
draw hurriedly. 

Yorkshire, the home of so many old 
customs which linger on in the distant dales, 
has still some strange survivals of wedding 
customs which can be traced back to very 
remote antiquity. After the wedding is 
over, races are run in a field near the church, 
the prize being a ribbon presented by the 
bride. This ribbon is a delicate substitute 
for the bride's garter, which used to be taken 
off as she knelt at the altar, and offered as 
a prize for the fleetest runner. The races 
were formerly run on horseback, and the 

1 Walford's "Antiquarian." 
199 



Old English Customs 

goal was the bride's door. We have here 
some relics, as Canon Atkinson points out in 
his " Forty Years in a Moorland Parish," of 
the ancient manner of wooing, which con- 
sisted in carrying off the bride by physical 
force. Traces of this can still be observed 
in the Welsh custom of the bridegroom 
mounting on horseback after the ceremony 
with his wife behind him, and then being 
pursued by the wedding guests. This is a 
strange relic of the old savage practice. 

The miners of Cornwall have several curi- 
ous customs. Not the least remarkable of 
these is the practice of burning the hats of 
fathers after the birth of their first child. 
This still prevails at St. Just. 

At Eyam, Derbyshire, a correspondent 
informs me that it was the custom forty 
years ago, after the publication of the banns 
for the third time, for an elderly man who 
sat in the choir gallery to supplement the 
parson's words by saying, " God speed 'em 
well." But the man is probably dead now, 
and the custom too. Another peculiar 
wedding custom, of which there appears 
to be no record, existed at Gunton, Norfolk. 
A friend of the writer saw, on the occasion 
of a wedding in the parish church, a man 
hiding himself behind a tree. When the 
bride and bridegroom returned from the 
church, the man fired at or near them. 
200 



Burial Customs 

This custom was called "Shooting the 
Bride," and was supposed to bring good 
luck and drive away evil spirits. The same 
custom prevails in Ireland. 1 The bridal 
party are saluted with shots from muskets 
and pistols in every village through which 
they pass. This often causes many riders to 
be unseated, as they all gallop fast on these 
occasions, as at the old Yorkshire weddings, 
contending for the honour of arriving first 
at the bridegroom's house. 

In Ireland a very strange marriage custom 
prevails in County Mayo. Gangs of men, 
dressed in women's dresses, and with straw 
masks, attend the wedding and dance. The 
band consists of twelve men, and the leader 
of the " straw-boys " has the privilege of 
dancing a measure with the bride. 

Burials, too, have still some curious cus- 
toms which time has spared. The mourn- 
ful tones of the "passing bell" announce 
the presence of death in the village. It was 
formerly rung just when the sufferer was 
yielding up life, in order that the parishioners 
might pray for the departing spirit, and 
after death the " soul-bell " was rung. Our 
modern "passing bell" corresponds with the 
latter. Sometimes the sex of the departed 
is shown by tolling the bell twice for a 
woman and thrice for a man. In Shropshire 

1 We are not sure whether the custom is now defunct. 
201 



Old English Customs 

all the bells are chimed when the body is 
being brought to the church, and the custom 
is called "ringing the dead home." In 
Hampshire the outer door of the house, 
through which the body has been carried, is 
left open until the return of the mourners ; 
otherwise it is supposed that another death 
will occur before a year has passed away. 

In Yorkshire it is customary after a death 
to send to the friends of the family a bag 
of biscuits, together with a card bearing 
the name of the deceased. Sometimes these 
"funeral biscuits" are small round sponge- 
cakes, and were formerly known as arvel 
bread- arvel or arval being the ale or 
feast of the heir when he succeeds to his 
father's property. 1 This is a relic of the old 
pagan funeral feasts, and is not unknown in 
other parts of England. It is probably con- 
nected with the curious custom of the Sin- 
eater, formerly observed in Wales. A poor 
person was hired (one of them is described 
as "a long, lean, ugly, lamentable rascal ") to 
perform the duties of Sin-eater. Bread and 
beer were passed to the man over the corpse, 
or laid on it ; these he consumed, and by 
this process was supposed to take on him all 
the sins of the deceased, and free the defunct 
person from walking after death. The eaters 

1 Cf. " Forty Years in a Moorland Parish," Canon Atkinson, 
p. 228. 

2O2 



Burial Customs 

of funeral biscuits in modern times little re- 
flect upon the extraordinary superstition of 
which these dainties are a relic. 

At a funeral near Market Drayton in 
1893, the body was brought downstairs, a 
short service was performed, and then glasses 
of wine and funeral biscuits were handed to 
each bearer across the coffin. The clergy- 
man, who had lately come from Pembroke- 
shire, remarked that he was sorry to see that 
pagan custom still observed, and that he had 
put an end to it in his former cure. Mr. 
E. Sydney Hartland has recently maintained 
in The Times that the custom of the Sin- 
eater still exists in Wales, and mentions the 
current belief in Derbyshire that every drop 
of wine drunk at a funeral is a sin committed 
by the deceased. Hence wine is drunk at 
the funerals in order to release the soul of 
the dead from the burden of sin. At Padi- 
ham wine and funeral biscuits are always 
given before the funeral, and the clergyman 
is always expected to go to the house, and 
hold a service before the funeral party goes 
to church. Arval bread is eaten at funerals 
at Accrington, and there the guests are ex- 
pected to put one shilling on the plate used 
for handing round the funeral biscuits. 

In the North of England a basin full of 
sprigs of box is often placed at the door of 
the house, and every one who attends the 
203 



Old English Customs 

funeral takes a sprig of box, carries it in the 
procession, and throws it into the grave of 
the deceased. 1 In the Dale district of York- 
shire, when a young unmarried woman is 
buried, the bearers are usually six single 
young women, who wear white scarves and 
gloves. A dead child is borne by six chil- 
dren, whose sex accords with that of the 
deceased. 

In the same county there are roads called 
corpse roads, along which the bodies of dead 
folk are carried on the way to their last 
resting-place. At Sharleton the coffin must 
always be carried to Grime Lane End, and 
then put into the hearse or cart. The 
mourners always walk to this spot, and then 
enter the carriages and continue their way 
along the corpse road to the church. Local 
custom has sanctioned this usage, which is 
never varied. Canon Atkinson mentions 
some similar customs in his " Forty Years 
in a Moorland Parish." 

In many counties the custom exists of 
putting crape on beehives after the death of 
their owner. This is solemnly done by his 
nearest relation ; otherwise it is supposed 
that the bees will die. The bees, too, have 
to be informed of the death ; this is done 
by tapping the hives and saying, " Brownie, 
brownie, brownie, your master is dead." 

1 "Curious Church Customs," p. 145. 
2O4 



Burial Customs 

This is called " waking bees." The custom 
was practised at Greenham, Berks, during 
the present year. An old woman reproached 
herself to the vicar because she had omitted 
to " tell the bees " when their master had 
died ; but she was relieved to find that a 
neighbour had been more thoughtful, and 
had duly performed the ceremony. 

Near Bridgwater, when a batch of cheeses 
is made, one is put aside for the funeral 
function of the master, should he die within 
the year. If he outlives the year, the cheese 
is sold, and always commands a good price. 

One other funeral custom is worthy of 
record. The husband of a lady living in 
Lancashire recently died. As soon as his 
death became known, a friend sent to the 
widow a small sheaf of wheat to be distri- 
buted among the relatives present at the 
funeral. This wheat is evidently an emblem 
of immortality, and the custom of intro- 
ducing wheat at a funeral is still known in 
modern Greece. Chandler, in his "Travels 
in Greece," states that at a funeral two men 
followed the body, each carrying on his head 
a dish of parboiled wheat, which was de- 
posited over the body. 1 

1 Notes and Queries, 7th Series, vi., Nov. 3, 1888. Note by 
Lady Russell. 



2O5 



CHAPTER XIII 

Legal customs Clameur de Haro Tynwald 
Hill and Manx laws Court of Pie-Powder 
Court - Leets and Court - Barons Court of 
Exchequer Borough - English Gavelkind 
Court Leet at Dimchurch Heriots Judge's 
black cap Gray's Inn Curious custom at Royal 
Courts of Justice. 

1HE statute-book of the laws of England 
is replete with survivals of ancient customs, 
and learned legal commentaries disclose the 
existence of strange local usages, curious 
tenures and rights, which originated centuries 
ago, and are held to be valid because they 
" have been used so long that the memory 
of man runneth not to the contrary." It is 
remarkable that the period to which legal 
memory extends goes as far back as the first 
year of the reign of Richard I. 

One of the more curious survivals of the 
customs of the Middle Ages may occasion- 
ally be observed in the Channel Islands. 
This is called the Clameur de Haro, and 
enables a suitor to claim the jurisdiction 
of the royal courts of the island in case 
he considers himself wronged and unjustly 
206 



Manx Custom 

treated. A few years ago (March 4, 1890) 
this custom was exercised in order to prevent 
the public auction of certain household goods, 
which was disapproved by the eldest son of 
the family. The formula uttered by the son, 
according to ancient usage, was as follows 
" Haro ! Haro ! Haro ! a 1'aide, mon 
prince ! on me fait tort ! " The sale ceased 
at once, and the matter had to be referred 
to the royal courts of the island. This 
appeal can always be resorted to by the 
inhabitants of the Channel Islands whenever 
they believe that they are being treated un- 
justly. 

In the Isle of Man, according to ancient 
custom, the laws of the island are read 
publicly on the Tynwald Hill once every 
year in Manx and in English. 

This ceremony connects the little Manx 
nation with the days of the Sagas and the 
Sea-Kings. On old Midsummer Day, July 
5th, the governor goes with a military escort 
to the Church of St. John, near the famous 
hill, and is received by the bishop, the clergy, 
the Keys, Deemsters, coroners, and people. 
Divine service is held, and then they all 
march to the mound, the sword of state 
being carried before the governor. The 
chief men of the island stand on the lower 
steps of the mound, and the people gather 
in crowds on the grass beyond. The coro- 
207 



Old English Customs 

ners proclaim a warning, that no man shall 
make a disturbance at Tynwald " on pain of 
death." The Deemsters then recite the Acts 
of Tynwald, and all retire to the church, 
where the laws are signed and attested. This 
method of proclaiming the laws was formerly 
common amongst all Norse nations. In Ice- 
land the custom survived, but has now been 
discontinued. The " little Manx nation " 
alone preserves this badge of ancient liberty. 
Formerly this method was sorely needed, as 
the laws only existed in the breasts of the 
Deemsters, and were called " Breast Laws," 
being handed down orally from Deemster 
to Deemster. In the time of the second 
Earl of Derby, they were first committed to 
writing. 

The oath of the Deemster or Judge is 
worthy of record in a book dealing with old 
customs, and is remarkable for its ancient 
form and phraseology. The words are : 
" By this Book and by the holy contents 
thereof, and by the wonderful works that 
God hath miraculously wrought in heaven 
above and in the earth beneath, in six days 
and seven nights, I do swear that I will with- 
out respect, or favour, or friendship, love 
or gain, consanguinity or affinity, envy or 
malice, execute the laws of this isle justly 
between our Sovereign Lord the King and 
his subjects within this isle, and betwixt party 
208 



Court of Pied-Poudre 

and party, as indifferently as the herring's 
backbone doth lie in the midst of the fish." 

The court of pie-powder, which still 
exists at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, has an old- 
world title, and was formerly attached to all 
the great fairs and markets in the kingdom. 
The name is a corruption of the court of 
pied-poudre (curia pedis pulverizati)^ which 
is said to be so called from the dirty feet of 
most of the suitors who frequent the court. 1 
It is a court of record incident to every 
market and fair, of which the steward of the 
owner of the market or fair is judge, with 
power to administer justice for all com- 
mercial injuries and disputes which may 
occur in the course of business transacted at 
the gathering of traders. 

The same court exists at Sturbridge Fair, 
near Cambridge, and so useful is this insti- 
tution for the administration of rough and 
ready justice that it has recently been revived 
at Peterborough. The old Guildford charter 
granted in 1285 gave special powers for the 
holding of this court. The charter runs : 
" And furthermore we have granted to the 
aforesaid Mayor and good men that they and 
their successors shall have for ever a pie- 
powder court from hour to" hour, and all 
things that belongeth to the same court." 

1 A more satisfactory derivation is pied puldreaux, or the 
court of the pedlars. 

209 o 



Old English Customs 

It gives full power to this court for collect- 
ing dues, settling quarrels and complaints, 
and deciding disputes. There is no evidence 
as to the date when these courts were first 
established in this country. " Over all com- 
mercial complaints its authority was absolute 
an offender might be taken, a jury of 
similar traders empanelled on the spot, evi- 
dence heard at once, and he would be per- 
haps commencing his punishment all within 
an hour." 

The ancient fair at Newcastle is opened 
by the Mayor and Sheriff at the Guildhall, 
and notice given as follows : " That a 
court of pie-powder will be holden during 
the time of the fair, that is to say, one in the 
forenoon and another in the afternoon, when 
rich and poor may have justice administered 
to them according to the law of the land 
and the customs of the town." A similar 
proclamation is made at Modbury, South 
Devon, on the eve of St. George's Day by 
the Portreeve. Yarmouth and Boston, Hull 
and Winchester still retain documents and 
books relating to this ancient court, and the 
readers of " Pilgrim's Progress " will find in 
Bunyan's description of Vanity Fair a very 
accurate picture of its former methods of 
jurisdiction. At Bristol it survived till 1885 
in the shape of a body calling itself the 
Tolsey Court, the name being derived from 
210 



Fairs 



U 4.^1 > 



tol " or toll. At Ely a proclamation is 
still read twice a year at the opening of the 
fair, in the name of " Alwyne, by Divine 
permission my Lord Bishop of the Diocese 
of Ely " which commands that " all vaga- 
bonds, idle and misbehaving people, cheaters, 
cozeners, rogues, sturdy beggars, and shifters, 
do depart out of this fair immediately after 
this proclamation upon pain of imprisonment 
and further correction, that His Majesty's 
subjects may be the more quiet and the 
Queen's peace the better performed." We 
believe that tolls in kind still survive at 
Guildford, where a pint of corn is taken 
from every sack sold; at Berwick, when 
one egg in thirty is taken, and at Dun- 
gannon where the toll-board requires that 
the tongue of oxen, cows, heifers, or bul- 
locks, killed between September 29th and 
December 25th shall be collected "for the 
proprietor." 

The whole history and constitution of our 
courts of justice are full of quaint usages. 
Court -leets and court - barons, which are 
incident to every manor in the kingdom, and 
are presided over by the steward of the 
manor, are still held, when the freeholders 
and tenants of the lord of the manor assemble, 
and the affairs of the manor are duly trans- 
acted. 

The names of the courts of justice are 

21 I 



Old English Customs 

sometimes curious. The Court of Ex- 
chequer, which once concerned itself only 
with the king's revenues, is so called from 
the chequed cloth, resembling a chessboard, 
which covered the table, and on which, when 
certain of the king's accounts were made 
up, the sums were marked and scored with 
counters. 

Some systems of tenures are very remark- 
able, notably the custom of Borough English, 
which prevails in several cities and ancient 
boroughs in different parts of the kingdom, 
principally in the North. According to this 
custom, the land descends from the father on 
his death to the youngest son only, to the 
exclusion of all the other children. Authori- 
ties differ with regard to the origin of this 
peculiar rule of descent. Some suppose that 
it arose from the idea that the younger son, 
by reason of his tender age, is not so capable 
as the rest of his brethren to help himself. 
Others attribute its origin to the ancient 
right of concubinage which the lord of the 
fee had with his tenant's wife on her wedding 
night, and imagine that the tenement de- 
scended to the youngest, and not to the eldest, 
as the former would more certainly be the 
offspring of the tenant. But it is not known 
that this custom ever prevailed in England, 
though it did in Scotland and France. Most 
probably it arose from the usual habits of 
212 



Borough English 

Northern nations, the eldest sons usually 
migrating from their father's house, and the 
youngest remaining with him, and thus be- 
coming his heir. It would thus be a remnant 
of the pastoral habits of our Saxon ancestors, 
and not a memorial of a hideous right of 
feudal slavery. 

" Borough English " is sometimes known 
as Cradle-land tenure, and prevails at Mere 
Down, Wilts, in the manors of Lambeth, 
Hackney, St. John of Jerusalem in Islington, 
Heston, Edmonton, and Fulham. 

Gavelkind is another peculiar system of 
tenure, which exists almost universally in 
Kent. At the Conquest the men of Kent 
obtained certain concessions from the Con- 
queror, and were allowed to retain their 
ancient liberties. It is evident, therefore, 
that the custom of gavelkind before the 
Norman conquest was the general custom of 
the country. According to this usage the 
land is divided after the decease of the father 
amongst all the sons, and in default of them 
amongst all the daughters. This is in ac- 
cordance with the custom of the Germanic 
races described by Tacitus, Teutonibus priscis 
patrios succedit in agros mascula stirps 
omnis ne foret ulla potens^ and was doubt- 
less introduced to this country by our Saxon 
forefathers. Gavelkind also prevents the 
forfeiture of the estates in case of an attain- 
213 



Old English Customs 

der for felony, the following rhyme explain- 
ing this peculiar privilege : 

" The father to the bough, 
The son to the plough." 

The Duke of Buccleuch has revived an 
ancient custom which dates back to feudal 
times, and, in his capacity as Lord of the 
Hundred and Liberty of Knightlow, War- 
wickshire, holds his Court-leet and Court- 
baron at the old posthouse, the Dun Cow 
Hotel, Dunchurch, near Rugby. The court 
is presided over by the steward. The jury 
are duly sworn in by the bailiff, who ad- 
ministers an oath, couched in quaint terms, 
binding them to make a true presentment 
of such things as would be given them in 
charge, and " to conceal and keep secret the 
Queen's counsel and your own and your 
fellows'." The business of the court, which 
consists of receiving the reports of the bailiff 
and the reports of the stewards to the effect 
that several parishes had failed in their hom- 
age to the court by the non-payment of 
" essoign pence," " charge rent," is gravely 
proceeded with, and after the various matters 
have been discussed the jury make their 
presentment, with the formal proclamation. 
The court then rises. Subsequently the 
jury and the others concerned in the busi- 
214 



Heriots 

ness of the court are entertained to dinner 
by the Duke of Buccleuch. 

The custom of heriots is also remarkable, 
and is a relic of villein tenure when the goods 
and chattels of the tenant belonged to the 
lord and were liable to seizure by him. 
Under this custom the lord of the manor is 
entitled to the best beast, or in some cases 
the best personal possession, such as a jewel or 
piece of plate, on the property of the tenant 
at the time of his death. This is justly con- 
sidered as one of the most oppressive customs 
which attend the modern law of tenures, and 
usually a customary composition in money 
is agreed upon in lieu of a heriot. But this 
arrangement is not universal. A few years 
ago the tenant of the lord of a Sussex manor 
died, and among his possessions was a very 
valuable Shire horse. This horse was claimed 
by the lord as a heriot ; the law upheld his 
claim, and the horse was duly conveyed to 
his stables. A curious circumstance fol- 
lowed. The horse died a fortnight after its 
transference to its new quarters, and the 
cause of its death aroused sundry suspicions. 

The frequenters of our courts of justice 
have observed the judge wearing a black cap 
when pronouncing sentence of death. The 
origin of this custon has been variously ex- 
plained. The covering of the head has been 
a sign of mourning among many nations. 
215 



Old English Customs 

Jews, Greeks, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, all 
used to adopt this mode of signifying sorrow 
for death; but we must look elsewhere for 
an explanation of the origin of the use of 
the judge's black cap. The judges were 
usually clerics, and all members of the cleri- 
cal orders had the crown of the head shaved. 
The bare patch on a judge's or barrister's 
wig is a remnant of the tonsure. Now this 
tonsure on the crown of his wig the judge in 
passing sentence of death covers with a black 
cap, to show that for the time he lays aside 
his clerical office, it being against the primi- 
tive canons for a churchman to have anything 
to do with the death of a fellow-creature. 

Gray's Inn clings tenaciously to tradition. 
Within its walls may still be heard the 
" mootings " at which some knotty point of 
law is discussed in the presence of an emi- 
nent Queen's Counsel. The students still 
drink " to the glorious, pious, and immortal 
memory of good Queen Bess," whose por- 
trait hangs in the place of honour over the 
Benchers' table. On grand nights there is 
still the offering of wine with a morsel of 
bread upon a silver plate an almost sacra- 
mental observance. And now the honour- 
able Society seeks to restore, in modified 
measure, that reputation for revels which 
Queen Elizabeth acknowledged when she 
praised Gray's Inn as " an house she was 
216 



Gray's Inn Customs 

much indebted to, for it always studied for 
some sports to present to her." Three or 
four years ago there was a masque, such as 
Burleigh, the great minister, delighted to 
witness, and recently there was a revival of 
"The Comedy of Errors," as it was doubtless 
presented three hundred and one years ago. 
With the Middle Temple, Gray's Inn shares 
the glory of being the only existing place in 
which plays of Shakespeare saw light. In 
" Gesta Grayorum " occurs the earliest re- 
ference to " The Comedy of Errors," which 
was produced amid some tumult, owing to 
the overcrowding of the hall, for we are told 
that the night " began and continued to the 
end in nothing but confusion and errors ; 
whereupon it was ever afterwards called the 
night of errors." No finer setting could be 
imagined than the bare boards of the beauti- 
ful hall, beneath the hammer-beam roof with 
a background of a richly-designed oak screen, 
to which age had given a burnished lustre. 
The costumes were faithful reproductions of 
the dresses of the period. Serving-men held 
torches to light the play, as in 1594, and at 
the close of the play the actors, kneeling in 
a row, delivered that curious supplication, 
known as the " Queen's Prayer," from the 
play of " Ralph Roister Doister," which Her 
Majesty's servants were wont to speak at the 
conclusion of their performance. Supper was 
217 



Old English Customs 

eaten to the music of lutes, viols, and vir- 
ginals from the minstrels' loft. The whole 
spectacle was a delightful revival of the 
drama of ancient times. 

A peculiar survival of ancient observance 
is annually witnessed at the royal courts of 
justice. Certain quit-rent services to the 
Crown are rendered before the Queen's Re- 
membrancer by the Secondary of the City of 
London and the City Solicitor. According 
to records which can be traced back to the 
thirteenth century, Walter le Brun, farrier in 
the Strand, occupied a site in St. Clement 
Danes for a forge, he rendering yearly six 
horse-shoes and sixty-one nails. A piece of 
land in the county of Salop was held by 
Nicholas de Mora, who was to cut two 
faggots, one with a hatchet and the other 
with a billhook. The ceremony has been 
performed for more than six hundred years 
without intermission. Originally rendered 
to the King in person, the service was 
subsequently undertaken before the Barons 
of the Exchequer, and afterwards before 
the Cursitor Baron, which office was abol- 
ished in 1860. Since then the proceedings 
have been conducted before the Queen's 
Remembrancer. The ceremonial commences 
with the reading of two warrants under 
seal, one for the appearance of the late 
Sheriffs to give account, and the other 
218 



City Customs 

appointing the Attorney to account on 
behalf of those officers. The Secondary 
asks that the warrants may be filed and 
recorded, which is done. The Queen's 
Remembrancer then directs the following 
proclamation to be made : " Oyez, Oyez, 
Oyez, Tenants and occupiers of the piece 
of waste ground called the Moors, in the 
county of Salop, come forth and do your 
service upon pain and peril that shall fall 
thereon." The City Solicitor thereupon, as 
agent of the Corporation, cuts one faggot 
with a hatchet and another with a billhook, 
as was formerly done at Westminster by the 
senior alderman below the chair. The next 
proclamation invites tenants and occupiers 
of a certain tenement, called the Forge, in 
the parish of St. Clement Danes, in the 
county of Middlesex, to come forth and 
do their service. The City Solicitor then 
counts first six horse-shoes, and afterwards 
sixty-one nails, to which the Queen's Re- 
membrancer replies "Good number" after 
each counting. With this the ceremony 
concludes, and the horse-shoes, nails, and 
faggots are distributed among the spectators. 
The most singular part of the matter, how- 
ever, is that all trace of the property referred 
to has been lost for two centuries, and the 
forge above mentioned was pulled down in a 
riot in the reign of King Richard II. 
219 



CHAPTER XIV 

Civic customs Lord Mayors Show Former 
splendour of civic processions Livery Com- 
panies of London Civic banquets Loving-cup 
Election of Master of Girdlers Company 
Skinners' Company Fintners' Company Swan- 
uppingand the Dyers' Company The Salt-cellar 
of the Innholders' Company Silver cradle 
Colchester Oyster Feast Huntingdon and the 
ox's skull Preston Guild York and Mayoress' 
chain Freemasons. 

1HE City of London is still the home of 
many remarkable old customs, in spite of 
modern innovations ; and the ancient consti- 
tution of the City, with all its time-honoured 
institutions, has not yet fallen a prey to 
Progressist ideas, nor been absorbed by the 
London County Council. The old Livery 
Companies of London are some of the most 
ancient and honoured of our English institu- 
tions; they recall to our minds the past 
glories of our civic life, and retain some of 
the old manners and customs of our fore- 
fathers, which otherwise must inevitably have 
been lost. 

The Lord Mayor's Show is a familiar 
220 



Lord Mayor s Show 

sight to Londoners, the sole survival of the 
old pageants which delighted our forefathers 
when England's heart was young. The Lord 
Mayor still rides in his chariot of state, and 
a few of the Companies send pageants cars 
elaborately decorated, and made to represent 
the particular craft with which the Company 
is associated.- Masses of fruit and flowers 
adorn the car of the Fruiterers' Company. 
A band of neatly-dressed maidens show the 
skill of the Framework Knitters. But these 
are only the relics of the grand spectacles 
that once graced the streets of the City on 
great occasions, when a king returned from 
a victorious campaign, or a queen was wel- 
comed by the loyal citizens. Resplendent 
with gowns and hoods of divers hues, well- 
mounted and gorgeously horsed, with rich 
colours and great chains, the civic dignitaries, 
attended by the Companies, used to march in 
procession through the streets to attend the 
services at St. Paul's Cathedral, and then 
entertained in their festal halls nobles and 
princes, and the mighty " baron " made the 
table groan, and frumenty, with venison, 
brawn, fat swan, boar, conger, sea-hog, and 
other delicacies, crowned the feast. A de- 
scription of two of the pageants of the 
Mercers' Company will serve as examples of 
the nature of the shows which were formerly 
in vogue. One pageant was a rock of coral 
221 



Old English Customs 

with seaweeds, with Neptune mounted on a 
dolphin at the summit on a throne of mother- 
of-pearl, and accompanied by tritons, mer- 
maids, and other marine attendants. Another 
pageant was a triumphal chariot adorned with 
a variety of paintings, enriched with gold and 
silver and rare jewels, and figures bearing the 
banners of kings and mayors and of the Com- 
panies, with the arms of the founder, Richard 
II. A Virgin (the arms of the Company) sat 
upon a high throne, dressed in a robe of white 
satin, decked with gold and gems ; her long 
dishevelled flaxen hair was adorned with 
pearls and gems, and crowned with a rich 
coronet of gold and jewels. Her buskins 
were of gold, laced with scarlet ribbons, and 
she bore a sceptre and a shield with the arms 
of the Mercers. Her attendants were Fame 
blowing her trumpet, Vigilance, Wisdom, 
and other personified virtues, and the nine 
Muses, while eight pages of honour walked 
on foot, and Triumph acted as charioteer. 
Nine white Flanders horses drew the huge 
machine, each horse being mounted by some 
emblematical figure, such as Asia, America, 
Victory, &c. Grooms and Roman lictors in 
crimson garb, and twenty savages or " green 
men," throwing squibs and fireworks, com- 
pleted the pageant. On the river, too, the 
scene was equally animated, for there the 
state barges, echoing with flutes and trumpets, 
222 



Pageants 

adorned with streamers and banners, passed 
along ; and one barge, called the Bachelors' 
Barge, " garnished and apparelled passing all 
other, wherein was ordeyned a great red 
dragon spowting flames of fyer into the 
Thames; and many other gentlemanlie 
pageants, well and curiously devised, to do 
Her Highness sport and pleasure therein." 

Such were the pageants of ancient days, 
somewhat different from the less magnificent 
displays which the utilitarian spirit of the 
age grudgingly sanctions. It is satisfactory 
at least that the Lord Mayor's show, the 
sole relic of the old City " ridings," has not 
quite passed away; indeed, the last show 
was more magnificent than usual, and the 
crowds that assemble to witness the pageants 
as they pass show that the English people 
have not yet lost their ancient love of the 
pleasure which a spectacle affords, and are 
still amused by the sights and sounds which 
delighted our forefathers in ancient days. 

In the City Companies' Halls, where the 
great banquets take place, it is the custom 
to pass round the loving-cup. It is usually 
a very handsome goblet made of silver. 
After the dinner and grace, the Master and 
Wardens drink to their guests a hearty 
welcome, and as each person drinks, his 
neighbour on each side stands in order to 
guard him. The custom originated in the 
223 



Old English Customs 

precaution which was formerly necessary to 
protect a man from being stabbed while his 
hands were employed in holding the cup, 
and to assure him that he was in no fear of 
treachery, like that practised by Elfrida on 
King Edward the Martyr at Corfe Castle, 
who was slain while drinking. The same 
custom prevails at the Oxford Colleges when 
the " Gaudies " are being celebrated, and the 
grace-cup is passed round by the assembled 
guests. 

The City Companies have many ancient 
customs. The Master and three Wardens 
of the Girdlers' Company are each crowned 
on the day of election. After the usual 
dinner, the beadle carries round the crowns, 
which are placed by the clerk of the Com- 
pany on the heads of the officers, and the 
Master drinks the health of the Company. 
A little more ceremony is introduced at the 
election of the Master of the Skinners' Com- 
pany. The Master's crown is tried on the 
heads of various members present, and the 
verdict of the assembly is pronounced that 
the crown does not fit ; until at length it 
is placed on the head of the Master-elect, 
and the members at once declare it to be 
an " excellent fit," and the Master is duly 
elected. In some companies they have the 
custom of election by whisper. The renter- 
warden goes round the room, and each 
224 



City Companies 

member whispers into his ear the name of 
the Master-elect. 

The Vintners* Company are accustomed at 
their dinners to drink the toast of " Prosperity 
to the Vintners' Company " with five cheers, 
in memory of the occasion of the visit of five 
crowned heads to their hall. These were 
Edward III., King of England, David, King 
of Scotland, John, King of France, the King 
of Denmark, and the King of Cyprus, who, 
with many other nobles and princes, honoured 
Sir Henry Picard, Master Vintner, by their 
presence at a splendid feast. 

The same Company and the Dyers enjoy 
the privilege of keeping swans upon the 
River Thames, and swan-upping is a custom 
practised every year by the swan herdsman of 
the Vintners in conjunction with the officers 
appointed by Her Majesty and the Dyers 1 
Company. The young birds are marked by 
the swan-markers with the particular marks 
of their respective owners. 

The old custom of dividing different classes 
of society by means of the salt-cellar is still 
retained by the Innholders' Company. They 
possess a very fine salt-cellar of the time of 
James I., which is applied to the special pur- 
pose of dividing the Court and the Livery at 
the Livery dinners. The latter literally " sit 
below the salt," as the retainers used to do 
in the baron's hall. 

225 p 



Old English Customs 

Municipal customs exist in many of our 
English towns, several of which we have 
already recorded. One general custom seems 
to prevail in municipal corporations of pre- 
senting a small silver cradle to the mayor if 
his wife gives birth to a child during his year 
of office. 

Colchester is famous for its oysters, and also 
for its Oyster Feast, which has been main- 
tained for well-nigh four centuries. Indeed, 
this town was remarkable for its numerous 
dinners, and the lives of its municipal gov- 
ernors must have been extremely jovial. 
And, moreover, it was all done at the ex- 
pense of the town. Nearly all the revenues 
of the place were consumed in eating and 
drinking, and the chief duty of the corpora- 
tion was to feast. It would be tedious to 
enumerate the number of these civic ban- 
quets, but conspicuous among them was the 
feast at the opening and closing of the 
oyster -dredging. The Municipal Reform 
Act of 1835 abolished municipal banqueting 
at the cost of the boroughs, but shortly 
afterwards the Colchester Oyster Feast was 
revived, and has ever since been celebrated 
with much magnificence. The oyster fishery 
has always been a valuable privilege, which 
was granted to the town by Richard I. 
There is a Court of Conservancy specially 
appointed to preserve the fishery, and try 
226 



Huntingdon Customs 

all offences against the rules of the Court, 
and once a year they make a proclamation 
declaring the Colne to be shut, and for- 
bidding all persons from dredging. This 
is called "Setting the Colne." 

The strangest and most remarkable muni- 
cipal custom is that which prevails at Hunting- 
don. 1 The whole of the freemen of the 
borough assemble in the market-place on the 
morning of September I5th. The skull of 
an ox, borne on two poles, is placed at the 
head of a procession composed of the free- 
men and their sons, a certain number of 
them bearing spades and sticks. Three cheers 
having been given, the procession moves out 
of the town, and proceeds to the nearest point 
of the borough boundary, where the skull is 
lowered. The procession then moves along 
the boundary-line of the borough, the skull 
being dragged along the line as if it were a 
plough. The boundary-holes are dug afresh, 
and a boy thrown into each hole and struck 
with a spade. At a particular point called 
Blackstone Leys refreshments are provided, 
and the boys compete for prizes. The skull 
is then raised aloft, and the procession returns 
to the market-place, and then disperses after 
three more cheers have been given. There 
are no allusions to this strange custom in any 
of the topographical books of reference, and 

1 Antiquary, 1892. 
227 



Old English Customs 

it is an instance of the strange and curious 
customs which linger on in the obscure cor- 
ners of our land. 

The old Guild-life of England has almost 
completely died away, with the exception of 
the Livery Companies of London to which 
we have referred. But in one town the 
Guild exists in all its splendour. Every 
twenty years at Preston, Lancashire, it re- 
vives, and celebrates the occasion with much 
splendour and magnificence. The charter of 
the town obliges the corporation so to ob- 
serve this function, otherwise the inhabitants 
would lose their franchises and right as bur- 
gesses. During a fortnight the town is en 
fete. The following proclamation is issued 
by the Mayor: "The Guild Merchant for 
the Borough of Preston will be opened with 
the usual solemnities in the Town Hall, on 
the first Monday after the Feast of the 
Decollation of St. John the Baptist, when all 
persons claiming to have any right to free- 
dom or other franchise of the same borough, 
whether by ancestry, prescription, or pur- 
chase, are to appear by themselves or their 
proxies, to claim and make out their several 
rights thereto, otherwise they will, according 
to ancient and immemorial usage, forfeit the 



same." 



A Court is formed consisting of the Mayor, 
the three Senior Aldermen, who are called 
228 



Preston Guild 

Seneschals or Stewards, four other Aldermen, 
called Aldermen of the Guild, and the Clerk. 
Before this Court all who desire to be en- 
rolled as freemen of the Guild have to 
appear and make good their claim. In 
olden days this was an important and valu- 
able privilege ; otherwise he could not carry 
on his trade in the town; now it is an 
honourable distinction. The companies of 
the trading fraternities assemble early in the 
morning, and accompanied by the noblemen 
and gentry of the county they wend their 
way to the Parish Church. After the ser- 
vice a grand procession is formed, and the 
companies, decorated with the insignia of 
their trades, parade the town. First march 
the tanners, skinners, curriers, and glovers ; 
then follow the weavers and spinners, the 
cordwainers, carpenters, butchers, vintners, 
tailors, plasterers, smiths, gardeners, printers, 
and bookbinders, freemasons, &c. The ladies 
also take a prominent part in the functions 
of the Guild, and march in procession, headed 
by the Mayoress, accompanied by the ladies 
of the leading county families. Banquets, 
balls, plays, concerts, follow each other in 
rapid succession, and during the whole fort- 
night the town keeps high festival. At the 
conclusion of the Guild the Masters and 
Wardens of the Companies attend upon the 
Guild Mayor in the Guildhall. The Com- 
229 



Old English Customs 

panics have their Guild orders sealed and 
regularly entered in the books. Proclama- 
tion is made, and the name of each inhabitant 
burgess called over, when the Grand Seneschal, 
or Town -Clerk, affixes the corporation seal 
upon the Guild-book, and, holding it in his 
hand, says, "This is your law." The ser- 
jeants then make proclamation: "This Grand 
Guild Merchants' Court is adjourned for 
twenty years, until a new Guild Merchants' 
Court be held and duly proclaimed." Such 
is the relic of olden times which has come 
down to us. Every twenty years since 
1329 A.D. the festival has been held, except 
on two occasions during the Wars of the 
Roses and the troubles of the Reformation, 
and it may be confidently expected that in 
the year 1902 the Preston Guild will again 
be duly celebrated with accustomed honours, 
if all good institutions have not quite passed 
away before that distant date. 

An examination of the insignia of office 
belonging to the ancient corporations of 
England opens out a wide field for antiqua- 
rian investigation, and swords of state, maces, 
and staffs of office are connected with many 
old customs. At York the Lady Mayoress 
has the privilege of wearing a chain as well 
as her husband, but she has to tolerate the 
indignity of having it weighed on its delivery 
to and return by the wearer. This custom 
230 



York Custom 

arose from the discovery, made in some period 
of remote antiquity, that on the return of 
the emblem of office by a lady mayoress it 
was found to be short of a few links. 

There is one society whose proceedings 
are replete with ancient customs and time- 
honoured observances. The Freemasons are 
accustomed to ... But that is a sealed book, 
into which the uninitiated are forbidden to 
look, and its secrets we may not disclose. 



231 



CHAPTER XV 

Bell-ringing customs Dervsbury Pancake- bell 
Bells as guides Pudding-bell Harvest-bell 
Gleaning-bell Curfew Passing-bell Eight- 
hours' bell at Geddington, fyc. Calling servants 
at Fulham Palace Auction by candle at Alder- 
maston, Corby, Warton Market Drayton 
Coventry and Lady Godiva Pack Monday fair 
Rockland Guild Mock mayors Statute fairs 
Gingerbread fairs Tonm-criers call Relic 
of feudalism at Dalton-in-Furness Survival of 
old charm Colting at Appleby Brixton market 
custom Raffling for Bibles Witches' obelisk 
Gipsy custom Ploughing custom. 

SEVERAL bell-ringing customs have al- 
ready been mentioned. At Dewsbury there is 
the Old Lad's or Devil's Passing-bell, when on 
Christmas Eve, after the last stroke of twelve 
o'clock, the age of the year is tolled, as on 
the death of a person. The old year is 
tolled out and the new year ushered in with 
a gladsome peal at Kirton-in-Lindsey, West 
Houghton, and many other places. We have 
noticed the "Spur-peal," which is rung in 
the Northern counties. 1 At Swineshead on 

1 Elsham and Searby may be mentioned as places where the 
custom prevails. 

232 



E ell-Ringing Customs 

" Oak Apple Day " a merry peal is rung in 
memory of King Charles's escape at Boscobel. 
Pancake-bell may still be heard at several 
places, notably at Navenby, when it used to 
be rung by the oldest apprentice in the town. 
It is also rung at Culworth. Pancake-bell 
was originally the bell which summoned the 
people to confession, and not to eat pancakes. 
At Daventry it is known as " Panburn-bell," 
and at Maidstone as "Fritter-bell." In 
Bedfordshire there are several surviving pan- 
cake-bells. At St. Paul's, Bedford, the fifth 
bell is rung at 1 1 A.M. ; at Cranfield, the third 
bell ; at Toddington, the sixth ; at Turvey 
the first and second are chimed together at 
noon, making a most unmelodious noise, 
which is supposed to indicate the approach 
of the gloomy season of Lent. Church- 
bells were very useful in guiding the people 
home on dark winter evenings in the days 
when lands were unenclosed and forests and 
wild moors abounded. Hence charitable 
folk sometimes left money to pay the sexton 
for his labour in ringing at suitable times 
when the sound of the church-bells might 
be of service to some belated traveller. At 
Wokingham, Berks, there was a bequest left 
for this purpose by Richard Palmer in 1664. 
At Kirton-in-Lindsey during November and 
December the custom is still kept up ; also 
at Hessle, near Hull, where a lady who had 
233 



Old English Customs 

lost her way on a dark night, and was guided 
safely by the bells, left a bequest to the 
parish clerk on condition that the church-bell 
should be rung every evening. At Wood- 
stock John Carey left a bequest of ten 
shillings to be paid for the ringing of a bell 
for the guidance of travellers. At the con- 
clusion of the morning service on Sundays 
a peal of bells is sometimes rung. This is 
sometimes called " Pudding-bell," but was 
originally intended to announce that there 
would be another service in the afternoon. 
This custom prevails at Kirkleatham. The 
Harvest-bell is rung at the parish church of 
Driffield at 5 A.M. and 8 P.M. every day dur- 
ing harvest, according to ancient custom. At 
Culworth the Gleaning-bell is rung during 
harvest at 8 A.M., and also at the ancient 
town of Great Wakering, Essex ; at Driffield, 
Yorkshire ; at Swalcliffe and Tadmarton, 
Oxon ; Churchdown and Sandhurst, Glou- 
cestershire ; Aldeby, Gillingham, and Tiben- 
ham, Norfolk ; and at Beccles, Suffolk. 
There are no less than twenty places in 
Hertfordshire where the gleaning-bell is still 
rung, and a large number in Leicestershire. 

In the same county the curfew is also rung 
at many places. The curfew may still be 
heard throughout England, not always at the 
authorised hour of eight o'clock, but some- 
times at seven, and in some places at nine. 
234 



Curfew Bell 

Sandwich has just decided that it is better 
to save eight pounds a year than to preserve 
an ancient custom at that cost. But it would 
be rash to say that no one will ever again 
" hear the far-off curfew sound " over the 
" wide-watered shore " of East Kent ; for it is 
not the first time that Sandwich has come to 
this decision. After an unbroken career of 
700 years, the Sandwich curfew was threatened 
with extinction, first about 1833, and again in 
1853. But on both occasions public opinion 
was aroused, and saved the curfew ; and who 
knows that the history of Sandwich may not 
again repeat itself? 

The vitality of the curfew bell is especially 
remarkable in face of the equal vitality of the 
legend which seeks to discredit it. We have 
most of us learned from the history books of 
our youth how William the Conqueror, the 
tyrant who destroyed so much good arable 
land to make the New Forest, invented the 
" couvre-feu " in order to oppress his con- 
quered subjects. But the New Forest legend 
has recently been exploded, and the curfew 
story is almost as false. It is true that when 
William " introduced " the rule that, at the 
sounding of the curfew, all fires and lights 
were to be extinguished, and no person was 
to stir abroad, he had an eye to the Saxon 
beer clubs, where he had every reason to anti- 
cipate the hatching of treason. But it was 

235 



Old English Customs 

not a new idea of William's own. The cur- 
few was early to be found all over France, 
Italy, and Spain, and it is said that its ringing 
at Carfax, in Oxford, was instituted by Alfred 
the Great. Alfred is also said to have pre- 
sented Ripon with a horn, which was blown 
in the streets at the same time as the curfew 
bell rang ; or rather the careful people of 
Ripon kept Alfred's horn in a safe place, and 
blew a less distinguished one in the streets. 
These Alfred stories are probably untrue, but 
they point to a curfew institution older than 
the Conqueror. 

In 1103 the compulsory curfew was abo- 
lished, but it lingered on as a custom almost 
everywhere, and it is really surprising to 
find in how many places it still exists, or at 
any rate was existing at some time during 
the latter half of the present century. From 
Penrith, Newcastle, Morpeth, Alnwick, Kirby 
Stephen, and Durham, in the north, to Win- 
chester, Exeter, Bodmin, and Newport (Isle 
of Wight) in the south, there is hardly 
anywhere a district of twenty miles square 
where the curfew could not be discovered. 
Eastward its area extends to Cambridge and 
Bury St. Edmund's, and westward to New- 
port and Carnarvon, at which latter town 
it was so cherished that, when the old Guild- 
hall was replaced by a new one, special orders 
were given for the erection of a suitable 
236 



Curfew Bell 

place for the curfew bell. In some counties, 
such as Cheshire and Oxfordshire, the num- 
ber of curfew bells recorded as still, or until 
lately, existing is quite startling. In the 
Scottish Lowlands, again, it is far from un- 
common, and here again there is a tradition 
which ascribes it to the tyranny of Edward I., 
though the truth is as doubtful as in the 
case of the Conqueror. And a rather touch- 
ing case is that of many American towns, 
especially in the New England States, which 
have retained it as a legacy from their Pilgrim 
founders, who were so unwilling to abandon 
any of the customs of their home-land. In 
1851, at any rate, two bells rang every even- 
ing at Charleston, at eight and ten in summer, 
at seven and nine in winter. At the first the 
young children said " Good night," and went 
to bed ; at the second the watch for the 
night was set, and after that no servant 
might step outside of his master's house 
without a special permit. 

Of course, all these instances are not cases 
of pure survival. Sometimes the ringing of 
the curfew bell was retained on account of 
special bequests for the purpose. That was 
the case at Kidderminster, where the bell was 
ordered to be rung on a particular night for 
one hour. The testator had upon one occa- 
sion gone to Bridgenorth Fair, and lost his 
way upon his return. In his wanderings he 
237 



Old English Customs 

had strayed just to the edge of a very steep 
descent, and in a moment more he would 
have been over it, when suddenly Kidder- 
minster curfew rang out, and showed him 
his direction. In gratitude for what he re- 
garded as his providential escape, he left his 
bequest to provide for the ringing of the 
curfew at that hour to all time. In other 
cases, it is a pure revival due to antiquarian 
interest, as at Minster in Kent, where the 
curfew bell proper is supplemented by a 
treble bell, which rings as many times as 
there are days so far in the month. This 
ringing of the day of the month is found at 
other places, as at Chertsey, Waltham-on- 
the- Wolds in Leicestershire, Bromyard in 
Herefordshire, and many more. 

But it is contended by some that many of 
these so-called curfew bells are not curfew 
bells at all, but the old Catholic Angelus, 
rung in the early morning, at noon, and in 
the evening. As we find that at many of 
the churches which keep up the " curfew " 
ringing there is also an early morning bell, 
there may be a good deal in this view. Nun- 
eaton, for instance, joins to its curfew bell 
a " matins bell," rung at 6 A.M. between 
Michaelmas and Lady Day, and 5 A.M. 
between Lady Day and Michaelmas. At 
Pershore, besides the curfew, which for some 
curious reason was confined to the time 

238 



Curfew Bell 

between November 5 and Candlemas, there 
used to be a bell at 5 A.M., until on one 
occasion the sexton made a mistake, and rang 
the bell some five hours too early. The 
steady sequence of early morning bells was 
broken, and perhaps the people of Pershore 
thought it well to bury a scandal like that 
in oblivion ; at any rate, there was no more 
5 A.M. bell. They had omitted to look 
after their sexton in the careful manner pre- 
scribed by the Faversham Articles, where 
the sexton is directed to " lye in the church 
steeple " so as to be at his post at the proper 
time. It was a matter of some consequence 
in some places where the early morning bell 
was the signal to rise ; and no doubt it was 
for this latter purpose in many cases that 
the early bell remained after its religious 
signification had dropped out of sight. The 
evening curfew has in the same way served, 
especially in Scotland, as a signal for the 
cattle to be driven home. 

The Passing-bell is as old as the time of 
Bede, and, together with the Soul-bell, has 
already been alluded to. At Culworth three 
tolls are given for a man, two for a woman. 
In Somerset and Staffordshire a muffled peal 
is often rung on Holy Innocents' Day in 
memory of the slaughter of the earliest 
Christian martyrs. 

At Geddington the "eight-hours' bell" 

239 



Old English Customs 

has for centuries been rung at 4 A.M., at 
noon, and at 8 P.M. The early bell was 
intended to call up the horsekeepers and 
cowmen. A few years ago a slight change 
was made in the hour. From Plough Mon- 
day to Lady Day the first bell was rung at 

5 A.M., instead of at 4 A.M., but now, owing 
to the infirmities of the sexton, it has been 
discontinued. At Culworth the tenor bell 
is tolled in case of a fire. The third bell 
is sounded after a celebration of Holy Com- 
munion as the communicants are leaving the 
church, and a peal is rung at 5 A.M. on 
the four Mondays in Advent, to remind the 
listeners that " now it is high time to awake 
out of sleep." 

In Yorkshire every old market-town fol- 
lows the ancient practice of having a bell 
rung at early morning and in the evening, 
though the hours differ. At Kirkham the 
bell rings during the summer at 5 A.M. and 

6 P.M. ; in winter, at 6 A.M. and 8 P.M. The 
evening bell is called the angelic bell. At 
Crewkerne, Somerset, the curfew is rung at 

7 P.M., and the morning bell at 5 A.M. The 
tenor bell of Great St. Mary's, Cambridge, 
is always rung from 9 P.M. until 9.15, and a 
smaller bell is rung at 6 A.M. The former 
was probably for " compline," the latter for 
"prime." At Oxford " Great Tom/' at 
Christ Church, tolls a hundred and one 

240 



Waking Servants 



times every night at five minutes past nine 
o'clock. The number was chosen in accord- 
ance with the number of students on the 
foundation of the College. At Epworth a 
bell is rung at 6 A.M., 12 noon, and 6 P.M., 
to call the labourers to work, to dinner, and 
to rest. A similar custom prevails in the 
surrounding villages. Certainly the sound of 
the church-bells is preferable to the steam- 
whistles of our large factories. The early 
bell was originally a summons to attend 
matins. 

A quaint practice exists at the Bishop of 
London's Palace at Fulham, and this consists 
in what appears to be a time-honoured cus- 
tom of waking up the episcopal domestics 
by means of a long pole. At Fulham the 
Palace lodge-keeper has a regular morning 
duty to perform in knocking up certain of 
the servants at successive hours, beginning at 
about half-past five. The pole he uses is 
not employed, however, like the old church 
" rousing-staves," which came in handy in 
churches in the case of inattentive or dozing 
members of the congregation to bring them 
to a proper sense of their position. The 
venerable man is provided with a slender rod 
some 1 5 feet in length, and with this he raps 
on the antique casements of the servants' bed- 
rooms in the quadrangle within the massive 
wooden gates of the large western archway, 
241 Q 



Old English Customs 

and he continues his attention until the 
sleeper gives a more or less grateful answer. 

At Aldermaston, Berks, the curious cus- 
tom prevails of letting land by means of a 
lighted candle. The villagers assemble in 
the schoolroom on the occasion of the letting 
of the " Church Acre," a piece of meadow 
land which was bequeathed some centuries 
ago to the vicar and churchwardens of the 
parish for the expenses of the church. The 
custom of letting the land is as follows : 
A candle is lighted, and one inch below the 
flame is duly measured off, at which point a 
pin is inserted. The bidding then commences, 
and continues till the inch of candle is con- 
sumed and the pin drops out. Every three 
years this ancient ceremony is performed, and 
it is a relic of the custom of selling by candle 
which was once prevalent in England. Pepys 
refers in his Diary to this in the follow- 
ing extract (September 3, 1662): " After 
dinner we met and sold the Waymouth, Suc- 
cesse, and Fellowship hulks, when pleasant 
to see how backward men are at first to bid ; 
and yet, when the candle is going out, how 
they bawl and dispute afterwards who bid 
the most first. And here I observed one 
man cunninger than the rest, that was sure 
to bid the last man, and to carry it ; and 
inquiring the reason, he told me that just 
as the flame goes out the smoke descends, 
242 



Auction Customs 

which is a thing I never observed before ; 
and by that he do know the instant when to 
bid last." 

Aldermaston is not "the only village where 
this old custom exists. At Tatworth, near 
Chard, a sale by lighted candle takes place 
every year, and at Chedzoy the " Church 
Acre " is let every twenty-one years by this 
means. The land belonging to the parish 
charities in the village of Corby, near Ket- 
tering, is let every eight years by the sale of 
candle, and the procedure is similar to that 
which has already been described. Also in 
Warwickshire, where old customs die hard, 
the grazing rights upon the roadside and 
on the common lands at Warton, near Poles- 
worth, have been annually let by the same 
means. This custom has been observed 
since the time of George III., when an old 
Act of Parliament was passed directing that 
the herbage should be sold by candle-light, 
and that the last bidder when the flame had 
burned itself out should be the purchaser. 
The surveyor presides at the auction, and 
produces an old book containing the record 
of the annual lettings since the year 1815. 
An ordinary candle is then cut into five 
equal portions, about half-an-inch high, one 
for each lot. At the last auction the sur- 
veyor drew attention to the fact that the 
sporting rights over an old gravel-pit were 

2 43 



Old English Customs 

included in Lot i, but regretted to say that 
there were no fish in the pond. " Get on, 
gentlemen, please ; the light's burning," was 
a frequent exhortation. The sales in former 
years used sometimes to be attended by 
much disturbance, but recently the utmost 
decorum has characterised the proceedings. 

Fairs have degenerated during recent 
years, and are very different from the great 
assemblies of merchants and pedlars, monks, 
knights, and squires, who flocked to Stour- 
bridge or Southwark in former times. Some 
are still held under the warrant of ancient 
charters granted by the sovereigns of Eng- 
land to favoured bishops or burgesses. At 
Market Drayton there are several fairs held 
by right of ancient charter. One great one, 
called the " Dirty Fair," is held about six 
weeks before Christmas, and another is called 
the " Gorby Market," at which farm-servants 
are hired. These are proclaimed according 
to ancient usage by the ringing of the church- 
bell, and the court-leet procession marches 
through the town, headed by the host of the 
" Corbet Arms," representing the lord of the 
manor, dressed in red and black robes, and the 
rest of the court carrying silver-headed staves 
and pikes, one of which is mounted by a large 
elephant and castle. At the court several 
officers are appointed, such as the ale-conner, 
scavengers, and others. The old standard 
2 44 



Fairs 

measures, made of beautiful bell-metal, are 
produced, and a shrew's bridle, and then 
there is a dinner and a torchlight procession. 

Coventry Fair, in ancient times one of the 
largest in England, is remarkable for the 
procession of Lady Godiva. The lady still 
" rides forth clothed on with chastity," but 
the garb of a modern burlesque actress seems 
scarcely in keeping with the close observance 
of ancient custom. 

Pack Monday Fair is still held at Sher- 
borne, Dorset, on the first Monday and 
Tuesday after October loth. It was for- 
merly ushered in by the ringing of the tenor 
bell in the church ; but thirty or forty years 
ago the bell was cracked, and its voice is no 
longer heard. On the eve of the fair a crowd 
of boys go about the streets after midnight 
blowing cow horns and beating tin trays, 
making night hideous. " However hideous, 
many would regret to see the old custom 
abolished," writes the vicar of Sherborne. 
The traditional origin of the custom is that 
when the builders and workmen had finished 
the church, they packed up their tools (hence 
Pack Monday), and held a fair in the church- 
yard, blowing cows' horns in their rejoicing. 

A curious country fair is held in the parish 
of Rockland, Norfolk, on May i6th, which 
is known as the " Guild," locally called the 
" Guile." Anciently village guilds were uni- 

245 ' 



Old English Customs 

versal, and this is evidently a degenerate relic 
of the Guild of St. John the Baptist held in 
St. Peter's Church before the Reformation. 
A Mayor of the Guild is elected, usually some 
half-witted fellow or sot. Having been made 
drunk, he is clothed fantastically, chaired, and 
carried through the parish. 

" Mock Mayors " were until recent years 
quite an institution in several towns. He 
exists in Newbury, Berks, in a part of the 
town called " the city." Why this not very 
aristocratic portion of the borough is so 
called is not quite evident. The historian 
of Newbury, Mr. Walter Money, thinks that 
it is connected with the limits of the fair 
granted by King John (1215 A.D.) to the 
Hospital of St. Bartholomew. The profits 
of the fair, which is opened by the town- 
clerk with all the quaint and ancient for- 
mality, still are given to the brethren and 
sisters of King John's Almshouses attached 
to the hospital. From time out of mind 
it has been the custom to elect annually with 
burlesque formalities a " Mayor of the City." 
For the last few years no fresh election has 
taken place, but the custom is not thought 
to be dead by the " citizens," but only in a 
state of suspended animation. His correct 
title is " Mayor of Barthlemas." St. Anne's 
Day, July 26th, was formerly the day of the 
election, but it has recently been changed to 
246 



Fairs 

November 9th, in compliment perhaps to the 
mayor of another city somewhat greater than 
that of Newbury. A "Justice" is also chosen, 
and after the official banquet, at which beans 
and bacon formed the principal dish, a pro- 
cession was formed, accompanied by a band 
of music, the town officials carrying in lieu 
of a mace a cabbage on a stick and other 
emblems of civic dignity. This procession 
has now been discontinued. " Mock Mayors " 
used to exist at Aldershot and Farnham. 

A fair which is known by the designation 
" Onion Fair " is still held at Chertsey, 
Surrey, on September 25, Holy Rood Day 
(old style). It is so called from a number 
of onions which are displayed for sale at 
the fair. 

Statute fairs are held in Lincolnshire and 
some other counties for the purpose of 
hiring servants. In Yorkshire and Derby- 
shire they used to be very common, and 
were accompanied by much dissipation. The 
servants used to stand in rows, the males 
together and the females together, and 
masters and mistresses walked down the 
lines and selected those whom they considered 
suitable. The custom seemed to savour of 
slave-dealing, and the mingling of so many 
youths and maidens in a strange town with- 
out guardianship was not conducive to good 
morals. Stratford-on-Avon mop, or ancient 
247 



Old English Customs 

statute, fair takes place annually in October, 
several thousand persons being present from 
all parts. While other statute fairs have 
declined, and several become extinct, that at 
Stratford-on-Avon has increased to an enor- 
mous extent, and is said to be the largest 
in England. Five oxen and ten porkers were 
on the last occasion roasted in front of large 
fireplaces constructed in the middle of the 
streets, and there were the usual holiday 
attractions. The men in Cumberland who 
desired to be hired stood in the fair with 
a straw in their mouth, according to the 
old dialect poem : 

" Suin at Carel (Carlisle) I stuid wid a strae i' my 

mooth, 
An' they tuik me, nae doubt, for a promisin' youth." 

Statute fairs are fast dying out, and none 
but the commoner sort of servants now 
present themselves for engagements after this 
fashion. 

Two gingerbread fairs survived in Bir- 
mingham until a few years ago, originally 
granted in 1251 to William de Bermingham 
by Henry III., to be held at Whitsuntide 
and Michaelmas. Long lines of market- 
stalls, loaded with various sorts of ginger- 
bread, clustered round St. Martin's Church, 
and attracted crowds of buyers. No ginger- 
bread was on sale at any other times. 
248 



Fairs 

The town-crier still rings his bell and 
calls out, " O yes, O yes," before proclaiming 
the object which he is commissioned to 
announce. This is, of course, a corruption 
of the old Norman word oyez, and signifies 
" Hear ye." 

As a relic of feudalism we may quote the 
following, which, according to ancient custom, 
is read on every 24th day of October at the 
market-cross at Dalton-in-Furness in the 
presence of a few javelin-men: "Thomas 
Woodburn, steward unto the most noble the 
Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, lord 
of the late dissolved monastery and manor 
of Furness and liberty of the same, strictly 
chargeth and commandeth all manner of 
persons repairing to the fair, of what estate 
or degree soever he or they may be, that 
they and every of them keep the Queen's 
Majesty's peace, every knight upon payment 
of ^10, every esquire and gentleman upon 
pain of ^5, and every other person upon 
pain of 405. And that no person or persons 
have or bear any habiliment of war, steel 
coats, bills, or battle-axes, but such as are 
appointed to attend upon the said steward 
during the present fair. And that none do 
buy or sell any wares but by such yards and 
wands as are, or shall be, delivered unto 
them by the bailiff of the town of Dalton. 
And the fair to last three days, whereof this 
249 



Old English Customs 

is the second ; and if any wrong be done 
or offered to any person or persons, he or 
they may repair to the said steward to have 
justice ministered unto them according to 
law. God save the Queen and the lord of 
this fair." Subsequently a meeting is held 
at the castle, and the juries are appointed 
for various purposes, and amongst them 
two gentlemen are selected as " ale-tasters." 
They are bound to visit all the public- 
houses in Dalton and taste the ale; their 
omission of any house being met with a 
fine. They make a report, and those having 
the best ale are awarded a red ribbon, the 
second best obtaining a blue ribbon. During 
the fair red and blue ribbon ale are in great 
demand. It is said that this custom dates 
from the time when the Abbot of Furness 
was supplied with ale fron Dalton, and this 
was regularly tasted by specially appointed 
ale-tasters. 

During the present year, when the writer 
was inspecting a village-school in Berkshire, 
he met with the following old charm, which 
was recited by one of the children as his 
usual form of daily prayer : 

" Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, 
Bless the bed that I lie on : 
Four corners to my bed, 
Four angels round me spread, 
250 



Old Charm 

One to sing, and one to pray, 

And two to carry my soul away : 

So if I die before I wake, 

I pray to God my soul to take, 

For Jesus Christ our Saviour's sake." 

These words are very ancient, and pro- 
bably date from a period long anterior to 
the Reformation. A somewhat similar charm 
is known in France, and used by the people 
in Poitou. It commences : 

" Saint Luc, Saint Marc, et Saint Mathieu, 
Evange'listes du bon Dieu, 
Gardez les quatre coins de mon lit, 
Pendant toute cette nuit. Ainsi soit-il." 1 

Dr. Lee writes that more than a dozen 
different, and sometimes very obscure and 
rugged, forms of this prayer were current in 
the county of Bucks, and that a horn-book 
with one rude version was found in one of 
the churches there. 

Old-time punishments, with their various 
forms of barbarity, are happily things of 
the past. The pillory, stocks, scold's bridle, 
and ducking-stool are usually seen in local 
museums ; but it appears that some relics of 
a form of pillory remain. A few years ago 
the old-fashioned custom of " coking " was 
revived at Appleby, 2 when the proprietor of 

1 La Revue des Traditions Populaires, November 1889. 
3 Westmorland Gazette, June 18, 1887. 

251 



Old English Customs 

an entire horse incurred the displeasure of 
the inhabitants by declining to pay the ac- 
customed charges. He was therefore duly 
haltered, and kept in durance for a couple 
of hours at one of the ancient hostelries of 
the town, where for the time he figured as 
" the observed of all observers," and formed 
a fund of amusement for the many country- 
folks attending the market. 

The curious custom of wiping the shoes 
of a person who visits a market for the first 
time is observed at Brixham, where a few years 
ago the late Prince Henry of Battenberg, 
when watching the sale of some smoked fish, 
had his shoes wiped by a fishwoman with her 
apron. He was then required to " pay his 
footing." The same custom prevails in the 
cornfields and hop-gardens of Kent, where 
the women, after wiping the visitor's shoes 
with a wisp of straw, a hop-bind, or an 
apron, require him to pay his footing. If 
a gentleman refuses to comply with the 
custom, he is seized by the enraged Amazons 
and deposited in a hop-basket, where he is 
left to meditate upon the iniquity of some 
old-established usages and the unwisdom of 
refusing to comply with them. 

Raffling for Bibles continues still in the 

parish church of St. Ives, Huntingdonshire. 

In the year 1675 Dr. Wilde bequeathed the 

sum of ^50 for the purpose of providing 

252 



Raffling for Bibles 

Bibles for poor children, to be raffled for in 
church. A piece of land, still called " Bible- 
orchard," was purchased with the money, 
with the rent of which the books are bought, 
and a small sum paid to the vicar for preach- 
ing a special sermon. The vicar directs the 
proceedings, and twelve children cast dice for 
the six Bibles awarded. We believe that 
owing to the action of the Charity Com- 
missioners a similar custom in a London 
church has just been discontinued. 

Belief in witchcraft and in the power of 
the evil-eye is not yet dead in England, and 
numerous instances might be given of strange 
credulity and lingering superstitions which 
School Boards and modern enlightenment 
have not yet eradicated. But charms and 
omens and popular superstition belong to 
the study of folk-lore, and can scarcely be 
classed with existing customs. We may men- 
tion, however, the Witch's Obelisk in Delaval 
Avenue, Northumberland, round which boys 
are accustomed to run in the hope of " raising 
the witch." It is believed that if any one 
succeeds in running round the obelisk seven 
times without drawing breath, the witch will 
appear. But as the seven circles mean a 
distance of a hundred yards, her chances of 
being disturbed are somewhat remote. 

A curious gipsy custom is worthy of 
record. When a gipsy dies, it appears that 
253 



Old English Customs 

his effects should be burnt ; at least such 
was the custom performed at Withernsea on 
1 2th September 1894. A member of the 
party of gipsies known as Fiddler Jack died 
amidst much lamentation of his comrades. 
After their return from the funeral they 
proceeded to burn his effects. Waggon, 
clothes, bedding, a set of china and his 
fiddle, were all consumed in the flames. This 
strange custom, which is of great antiquity, 
is said to have originated in order to prevent 
quarrelling among the relatives, and also that 
the widow might not be wooed for the 
property she might possess. It is also stated 
that the widow must, for a period of three 
months, depend entirely upon herself for 
sustenance, and in no way participate in any 
of the earnings of her relatives. The same 
custom of burning the effects of defunct 
gipsies was observed in the case of the 
dead queen of a gipsy band encamped near 
Elizabeth, NJ. All her belongings were 
burnt in June 1884, which included silk 
and satin dresses, jewellery, lace, a waggon, 
and other possessions which were valued at 
2500 dollars. 

A very pleasing custom exists in some 
places, showing a true kindly disposition and 
that good-nature which usually characterises 
country-folk in their dealings with each 
other. When a farmer takes a new farm 
254 



Ploughing Custom 

on lease, his neighbours give him the com- 
pliment of a day's ploughing. Seventy or 
a hundred ploughmen would appear on a 
certain day, and turn over the stubble for 
the new tenant. This was done recently at 
Mouldshaugh, Felton, and at Bartlehill and 
Kingsrigg. This is probably a revival, and 
not a survival of primitive usages. 



CHAPTER XVI 

Court customs Epiphany customs Maundy 
custom Coronation customs Royal births 
Royal funerals. 

1 HE ceremonial of courts still preserves 
many interesting and ancient customs, some 
of which date back to remote antiquity. In 
memory of the Magi's offering, on the Feast 
of the Epiphany in the Chapel Royal, St. 
James's, the monarch of England presents 
at the altar the customary gifts of gold, 
frankincense, and myrrh. For many cen- 
turies this was done by the sovereign himself, 
George III. being the last king who appeared 
in person ; now the offerings are presented 
by two officers of the Lord Chamberlain 
attended by the yeomen of the guard or 
4 'beefeaters." While the offertory sentences 
are being read, the representatives of royalty 
bring up three purses and lay them on the 
alms-dish held by the celebrant, who pre- 
sents them on the altar. Formerly the 
purses contained gold in the leaf, frank- 
incense and myrrh, which were deposited in 
a round box covered with silk. The box 

256 



Court Customs 

is no longer used, and instead of the gold 
leaf there are thirty pounds in gold, which 
are given to the poor of the parish. This is 
an interesting survival of a very ancient 
custom. 

In memory of the lowly act of the 
Saviour of mankind in stooping to wash the 
feet of the disciples at the Last Supper, on 
Maundy Thursday the sovereigns of Eng- 
land used to wash the feet of several poor 
people with much solemn pomp and re- 
ligious observance. Although the actual 
washing has been discontinued, some portion 
of the custom is still observed. A special 
service is held in Westminster Abbey. 1 A 
procession is formed in the nave, consisting 
of the Lord High Almoner, representing 
Her Majesty, attended by his officials, the 
yeomen of the guard, and the clergy of the 
Abbey. During the course of the service 
two distributions of alms are made to a 
company of old men and women, the num- 
ber of each sex corresponding to the age 
of the sovereign. The first distribution in 
lieu of clothing consists of 355. to each 
woman and 455. to each man. The second 
distribution is of red and white purses, the 
red containing i, and i, ics. in gold, 

1 The service was formerly held in the Chapel Royal, 
Whitehall ; since the abolition of that chapel it has been held 
at Westminster. 

257 R 



Old English Customs 

an allowance in lieu of provisions formerly 
given in kind. The white purses contain 
as many pence as Her Majesty is years of 
age, the amount being furnished in silver 
pennies, twopences, threepences, and four- 
pences. These purses are carried in baskets 
on the heads of the beefeaters in procession, 
and then distributed by the Lord High 
Almoner. Some of the officials wear white 
scarves in memory of the linen towel with 
which our Lord girded Himself when He 
stooped to perform His lowly act of washing 
His followers' feet. The minor bounty and 
royal gate alms are distributed at the Royal 
Almonry to upwards of a thousand aged, 
disabled, and meritorious people. 

In Vienna the same ceremony is performed 
with much elaborate detail. It is known as 
the Fusswaschung^ or the washing the feet 
of twelve poor men by the Emperor. This 
takes place in full state at the Imperial 
Palace on Maundy Thursday. "Apart from 
its religious aspect, the ceremony is of most 
imposing interest. At ten o'clock the doors 
leading into the hall were opened to admit 
a most remarkable procession. Twelve old 
men, bent and worn, the youngest of whom 
was 89 and the oldest 96, tottered into the 
hall, supported and guided each by two 
relatives (mostly women), who assisted the 
poor old creatures to mount the one step 

258 



Epiphany Customs 

leading to the dais, and conducted them to 
their allotted seats. It was almost pathetic 
to watch the old men glancing timidly at 
the brilliant throng of officers facing them. 
The next act in this remarkable spectacle 
was the entry of some twenty Knights of 
the Teutonic Order of ' Deutsche Herren,' 
headed by their Master, the Archduke Eugen. 
Each was attired in white, with a long black 
cross woven on the breast of the doublet, 
and another black cross on the white cloak 
hanging down from the shoulders. These 
Crusaders having lined the middle of the 
hall, made way for the Ministers and the 
Emperor's general staff. Then followed 
the Primate of Austria, with priests and 
acolytes bearing incense and candles, and 
lastly the Emperor Francis Joseph. The 
Emperor, who wore the white tunic of an 
Austrian general, walked to the table where 
the old men remained seated, and addressed 
a few words to them. Twelve guardsmen 
advanced through the hall, each bearing a 
tray on which was piled the first course of 
a sumptuous repast. The Emperor, giving 
his helmet to an officer, himself unloaded 
each tray as he passed down the line of 
guards, and with the deftness of a practised 
waiter arranged the dishes of cold viands 
before each of his guests. When this task 
was accomplished, the^ guards formed up 
259 



Old English Customs 

again with the empty trays, and twelve 
Archdukes advanced to the table and re- 
moved the untouched dishes from before 
the eyes of the old men. Eventually the 
tables were removed to make room for 
the Fusswaschung. The slippers which en- 
cased the old men's feet were taken off, 
and a priest came forward bearing a golden 
basin filled with water and a towel. The 
Emperor then knelt down before the oldest 
of his guests, applying the moistened towel 
to his feet, and, still kneeling, passed on to 
the next in order and down the whole line 
till all had been ministered to. It was a 
strange sight, and one never to be forgotten, 
that of the ruler of a mighty empire on his 
knees before the humblest of his subjects, 
and surrounded by all the pomp and circum- 
stance of a brilliant court. The last act 
of the ceremony was the placing round the 
neck of each old man by the Emperor of a 
chain, to which was attached a small white 
bag containing thirty pieces of silver." 

In former times it was not sovereigns only 
who observed this custom. Cardinal Wolsey 
in 1530 made his Maund in Our Lady's 
Chapel, having first washed the feet of fifty- 
nine poor men; and the Earl of Northum- 
berland gave gifts of clothing to as many 
poor men as he was years of age, as well 
as a platter with meat, an ashen cup filled 
260 



Coronation Customs 

with wine, and a purse containing as many 
pennies as he was years old. 1 

Court customs in connection with the 
coronation of the sovereign were formerly 
numerous and remarkable. How many will 
be retained when our beloved Queen shall 
have passed away and her successor comes 
to the throne, it is impossible to foretell. 
Her loyal subjects trust that that day may 
be long deferred ; but when our future 
sovereign is crowned, it is to be hoped that 
at least all the accustomed ceremonies will 
be observed which graced the coronation of 
Queen Victoria. Some of them we will 
now enumerate. 

The form of words used in the summons 
addressed to the peers of the realm ordering 
them to attend the coronation is worthy of 
record. " Right trusty and right entirely 
beloved cousin, we greet you well, and com- 
mand you to appear, &c. ... all excuses 
set apart." Each rank of nobility has its 
own title of greeting, such as " cousins and 
councillors ; " the barons are " councillors " 
but not cousins. Recollections of the ancient 
days of chivalry are revived by the words of 
homage which the spiritual peers are required 
to use : " I, Bishop of , will be faith- 
ful and true, and faith and truth will bear 
unto you, our Sovereign Lady and Queen, and 

1 Cf. Notes and Queries^ 7th Series, xi., June 6, 1891. 
26l 



Old English Customs 

your heirs, kings and queens of the United 
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland ; and 
I will and do acknowledge the service of the 
lands which I hold of you as in right of the 
Church." The peers show their homage by 
kissing the hand of the sovereign, touching 
the crown, and repeating the words : " I, of 

, do become your liegeman of life and 

limb, and of earthly worship ; and faith and 
truth I will bear unto you, to live and die 
against all manner of folks. So help me 
God." 

By hereditary right many persons have 
special dignities and duties at the coronation 
of a sovereign, and a special Court of Claims 
is appointed to investigate these ancient 
rights and privileges. 

The Duke of Norfolk is entitled to hold 
the honoured office of Earl Marshal, which 
allows him the attendance of an escort of 
cavalry in all state functions. Hi's privilege 
as lord of the manor of Worksop is to pre- 
sent a glove and support the sovereign's arm 
when holding the sceptre, and also to hold 
the office of chief butler, which entitles him 
to receive a cup of pure gold. The Duke of 
Newcastle, we believe, now holds the manor 
of Worksop, and would therefore be entitled 
to support the sovereign's arm at the next 
coronation. 

The Lord Mayor of London claims to 
262 



Coronation Customs 

present a gold cup of wine to the sovereign, 
which he is empowered to keep, and also the 
Mayor of Oxford receives a similar gift. 

The Dean and Chapter of Westminster 
claim the right to instruct the sovereign in 
the ceremonial duties, and have charge of the 
regalia. The huge stage-coach is used on 
these occasions. Special robes of state are 
preserved in St. James's Palace under the 
charge of the keeper of the robes, and are 
worn by the sovereign at the coronation. 

The ceremony of enthroning is called 
" lifting to the throne," derived from the 
manner of our Anglo-Saxon forefathers, who, 
when their king was enthroned, lifted him 
from the ground. There are several royal 
crowns among the regalia in the Tower of 
London, but at the last coronation only one, 
the Imperial crown, was used and placed 
upon the head of the sovereign. The royal 
sceptre is placed in the right hand, and the 
rod of equity, adorned with a dove, is held 
in the left hand of the enthroned monarch. 
The sword of state l is placed on the altar 
and redeemed for one hundred shillings. 
This is carried before the sovereign on all 
state functions. The orb, the ancient en- 
sign of the Roman emperors, surmounted 

1 In addition to this sword there are three other swords of 
state that of spiritual justice, that of temporal justice, and the 
pointless sword of mercy or cttrtana. 
263 



Old English Customs 

by a cross, is delivered with these words : "As 
is this orb set under the cross, so the whole 
world is subject to the power and empire 
of Christ our Lord." An ancient relic made 
of gold, St. Edward's staff, which is said to 
contain a portion of the true cross, is car- 
ried in the procession. The most solemn 
function of all is the anointing, during which 
ceremony four Knights of the Garter hold a 
canopy over the sovereign, while the Arch- 
bishop pours the anointing oil with a spoon, 
which is the most ancient of all the regalia, 
and with which many monarchs have been 
anointed. A ruby ring is placed on the 
sovereign's fourth finger of the right hand, 
signifying that the monarch is thus wedded 
to the nation. Certain offerings are made, 
among which are an ingot of gold and an 
altar pall " composed of ten yards of gold 
barred, gold frosted flowered brocade, lined 
with rich sarsenet, and with deep gold fringe." 
The oaken chair on which the sovereign 
is seated has been in use since the time of 
Edward II., and beneath it is the Coronation 
Stone which was conveyed to Westminster 
from Scotland by Edward I. ; a wild legend 
declares it to be the stone on which Jacob laid 
his head when he slept at Bethel. Amongst 
the curious claims of service may be mentioned 
that of the Barons of the Cinque Ports to 
hold a canopy over the sovereign ; the Baron 
264 



Coronation Customs 

Grey de Ruthyn to carry the great spurs; the 
Duke of Athol to present a cast of falcons ; 
the Archbishop of Canterbury, in right of 
holding the manor of Addington, to make a 
mess of pottage called Dillegrout. But the 
strangest survival of all is the claim of the 
Dymoke family to the office of King's Cham- 
pion. His duty is to appear on horseback 
in full armour at the royal banquet after the 
coronation, accompanied by the Earl Marshal 
and the Lord High Constable. The cham- 
pion then makes the following challenge : 
" If any person, of what degree soever, high 
or low, shall deny or gainsay our Sovereign 
Lord . . . to be rightful heir to the Imperial 
crown of the United Kingdom, or that he ought 
not to enjoy the same, here is his champion, 
who saith he lieth sore and is a false traitor, 
being ready in person to combat with him." 
The champion then, after the ancient manner, 
throws down his gauntlet. The challenge 
not being accepted, the sovereign drinks the 
health of the champion in a silver cup, which 
is presented to the brave defender of English 
monarchy, who then backs his horse out of 
the hall. It is impossible to say how many 
of these old customs will be retained at the 
next coronation, but it may be allowed to a 
lover of ancient ceremonial to hope that old 
forms and rites consecrated by time will not 
be abandoned. 

265 



Old English Customs 

At the birth of a member of the royal 
family it is customary for the Lord Mayor 
of London, the City authorities, and the 
chief officers of state to attend to testify to 
the actuality of the event. The partaking 
of caudle at the palace by all distinguished 
visitors is also an ancient custom, which was 
practised when the Prince of Wales was born. 

It is but a step from the cradle to the grave, 
and royal funerals are celebrated with some 
strange customs. They used to be performed 
at night, while the torches of the soldiers 
shed a weird light around. The titles of the 
royal dead are recited by the Garter King- 
at-Arms, and the officers of the household 
break their rods of office, and lay them on 
the coffin before it is lowered to its last 
resting-place. However, we believe that these 
ceremonies have not been performed on the 
occasion of recent royal funerals ; nor has 
the caudle-cup been used in the palace since 
the birth of the present heir-apparent. 



266 



CHAPTER XVII 

Parliamentary customs Searching the House 
Introducing new member Hat ceremony " Who 
goes home ? " Royal assent to Bills Ceremony 
of opening Parliament Installation of Speaker 
Introduction of new Peers in House of Lords 
Woolsack. 

1 HE House of Commons is usually sup- 
posed to be the most modernised of all insti- 
tutions, and flatters itself upon being a very 
" up-to-date " assembly. Still many quaint 
and curious customs linger which are worthy 
of record. 

On the morning that Parliament is to 
begin business, and at half-past ten, there 
assemble in the Prince's Chamber of the 
Palace of Westminster a military officer, four 
marshalmen, and ten " beefeaters " or yeomen 
of the guard. These last, with their quaint 
Tudor costume, are familiar to every visitor 
to the Tower of London. The marshalmen, 
with their frock-coats and tall hats (of the 
pattern Leech has immortalised in his various 
pictures of the metropolitan police), are known 
only to those who have admission by the 
peers 1 entrance to the House of Lords, inside 
267 



Old English Customs 

which two of them stand during each sitting, 
or who attend state functions at Buckingham 
and St. James's Palaces, whereat they likewise 
do duty. With this band of fifteen are joined 
the resident engineer of the palace of West- 
minster, the chief inspector of the parlia- 
mentary police, and the attendants upon the 
House of Lords; and, after a lantern has 
been served to each, there comes to them the 
Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, or, as is 
now more usual, the Yeoman Usher, with 
the secretary to the Lord High Chamberlain, 
the high official who has charge of this royal 
palace. " Prepare for a search," is the order 
given by the Lord Chamberlain's secretary; 
and, in full remembrance that it was under 
the peers' chamber that Guy Fawkes was 
found, but utterly ignoring the electric light 
which is now ablaze throughout the building, 
the procession moves from the Prince's Cham- 
ber to the House of Lords. With their 
lanterns dimly burning, the beefeaters scan 
each corner and peer under every bench, the 
chief inspector looking on meanwhile with 
the serene satisfaction of knowing that the 
men under his orders have kept the place 
secure from explosive intrusion. From the 
House of Lords the procession wends its way 
through the central hall to the House of 
Commons, and then, by way of the steps 
at the back of the chair, to the first floor, 
268 



Parliamentary Customs 

and next to the basement. Room after 
room in the most intricately arranged build- 
ing ever devised is there searched until 
those beneath the House of Lords have 
been dealt with; and then, with a parting 
inspection of the huge Victoria Tower, the 
marshalmen and beefeaters find their way 
once more into the courtyard, and there 
disperse. 

The Members' lobby and the central hall 
alike grow filled as two o'clock approaches, for 
that is always the hour fixed for the opening 
ceremony. Greetings are cordially exchanged 
between those who have not met for months ; 
the resemblance of the scene to a school re- 
assembling after the holidays strikes as a fresh 
inspiration every journalist who happens to 
be present for the first time ; and the roar of 
cheery voices rises higher and higher until, a 
few minutes before two, the deep voice of 
a constable is heard from the library corri- 
dor to exclaim " Speaker ! " with the second 
syllable indefinitely prolonged. Then a hush 
falls upon all, and, at the police direction, 
" Hats off, strangers," each visitor to the 
lobby (including the constables themselves, 
and virtually every member) doffs his head- 
gear as, preceded by the sergeant-at-arms 
bearing the mace, and followed by his chap- 
lain and his private secretary, the Speaker, in 
full wig and robes, and with cocked-hat in 
269 



Old English Customs 

hand, sweeps by through the lobby into the 
House. 

When a new member is admitted, he is 
escorted to the table by two members. This 
immemorial custom originated in a distant 
past, when it was necessary to avoid persona- 
tion. This precaution is, of course, now 
entirely unnecessary, but the custom still 
remains. 

The use of the hat is an important feature 
of parliamentary observance and ceremonial, 
and a breach of custom is always hailed with 
loud cries of " Order, order." Contrary to 
the manners of ordinary individuals, members 
of Parliament are required to put on their 
hat when seated in the House, and to take it 
off when they rise up to speak or to leave the 
assembly. When a member retires from par- 
liamentary life, he is called upon to accept 
the nominal office of the Stewardship of the 
Chiltern Hundreds. The ceremony at the 
close of each sitting reminds one of the dark 
lanes and dangerous corners of Old London, 
when the journey homewards was attended 
with some difficulty and danger. The mo- 
ment the House adjourns its sittings, the 
messengers and policemen shout " Who goes 
home?" For centuries this cry has been 
heard, and recalls the time when the members 
were obliged to go home in parties because 
of the footpads who infested the London 
270 



Parliamentary Customs 

streets, and who were not much alarmed by 
the presence of the City watchmen. The 
question is still heard, but no one answers. 

There are few things more impressive or 
instructive in their way than the manner of 
the clerks in the House of Lords when going 
through the ceremony of giving the royal 
assent to Bills. Standing at either side of 
the table, one clerk reads out the names of 
the Bills, The other, first bending low to 
the Royal Commissioners, half turns his head 
towards the Speaker and the Commons 
assembled at the Bar, and almost flings at 
them the phrase, La Reyne le veult. Then 
turning again to the Royal Commissioners, 
he reverentially bows with implied apology 
for having held even such slight communica- 
tion with commoner people. The formula, 
gone through precisely in the same way a 
score or a hundred times, according to the 
number of Bills receiving the assent, becomes 
in the end exasperatingly comical. 

The ceremonial prescribed by ancient usage 
at the opening of a new Parliament is both 
picturesque and significant, and the forms of 
election and installation of the Speaker have 
most historical impressiveness. Struggles 
between the Crown and the rights of the 
people have long since passed away, but the 
results of long centuries of contest are em- 
bodied in the assurance conveyed to the 
271 



Old English Customs 

representative of the Commons by the Lord 
Chancellor in the words, " That Her Majesty 
does most readily confirm all the rights and 
privileges which have ever been granted to 
the Commons by any of her royal pre- 
decessors, and that as regards the Speaker 
himself, Her Majesty will ever be pleased to 
place the most favourable construction on 
his words and actions." 

The usual form adopted for the regular 
installation of the Speaker is worthy of re- 
cord. The Speaker-elect enters the House 
of Commons attired in court dress, wearing 
a barrister's wig, accompanied by the ser- 
geant-at-arms bearing the mace over his 
shoulder. The mace is then deposited on 
the table. Then the yeoman-usher of the 
black rod is announced, who bows and 
advances to the clerk's table, and requests 
the attendance of "the Honourable House 
in the House of Peers." All the members 
present rise to their feet, and the Speaker- 
elect descends from the chair, and, preceded 
by the sergeant-at-arms, carrying the mace 
in the hollow of his arm, walks to the House 
of Lords. Here he addresses the Royal 
Commissioners, and says : " My Lords, I 
have to acquaint your Lordships that, in 
obedience to the royal commands, Her 
Majesty's faithful Commons, in the exercise 
of their undoubted rights and privileges, 
272 



Parliamentary Customs 

have proceeded to the election of a Speaker. 
Their choice has fallen upon myself. I 
therefore present myself at your Lordships' 
Bar, and humbly submit myself to Her 
Majesty's gracious approbation." The Lord 
Chancellor answers : " We are commanded 
to assure you that Her Majesty is so fully 
sensible of your zeal for the public service, 
and of your undoubted efficiency to execute 
the arduous duties which her faithful Com- 
mons have selected you to discharge, that 
she most readily confirms the choice they 
have made." The Speaker then says : " I 
humbly submit myself to Her Majesty's 
gracious commands, and it is now my duty, 
in the name and on behalf of the Commons 
of the United Kingdom, to lay claim, by 
humble petition to Her Majesty, to all their 
undoubted rights and privileges, especially 
to freedom of speech in debate, to freedom 
from arrest, and, above all, to free access to 
Her Majesty whenever occasion may require 
it, and that the most favourable construction 
may be put upon all their proceedings ; and, 
for myself, I pray that if, in the discharge of 
my duties, I inadvertently fall into any error, 
the blame may be imputed to me alone, and 
not to Her Majesty's faithful Commons." 
The Lord Chancellor replies : " Mr. 
Speaker, we have it further in command 
to assure you that Her Majesty does most 
273 s 



Old English Customs 

readily confirm all the rights and privileges 
which have ever been granted to the Com- 
mons by any of her royal predecessors ; and 
that, with respect to yourself, sir, though 
you do not stand in need of any such assur- 
ance, Her Majesty will ever be pleased to 
place the most favourable construction on 
your words and actions." The Speaker, 
having made the customary obeisance to the 
Royal Commissioners, then withdraws, and 
announces to the Commons the approval by 
Her Majesty of the selection of himself as 
Speaker of the House, and of the granting 
of the ancient rights and privileges to her 
faithful Commons which had been granted 
and conferred by Her Majesty, or by any of 
her royal predecessors. Thus the important 
ceremony ends. 

The ceremony attending the formal intro- 
duction of new peers into the House of 
Lords is not devoid of interest. They enter 
the House in procession with their sponsors, 
all wearing their robes of scarlet and ermine, 
and being preceded by Garter King-at- 
Arms and the Duke of Norfolk, Hereditary 
Earl Marshal, in their official robes. Each 
presents his patent and writ of summons to 
the Lord Chancellor, kneeling before the 
woolsack, and each patent and writ are read 
by the reading clerk. After taking the 
oath of allegiance and subscribing the roll, 
274 



Parliamentary Customs 

they are conducted to the seats of their re- 
spective ranks, when they salute the Lord 
Chancellor three times, and are afterwards 
formally introduced to him. 

The origin of the woolsack is said to date 
from the time of Elizabeth, when an Act of 
Parliament was passed to prevent the expor- 
tation of wool. In order to keep in mind 
this source of our national wealth, wool- 
sacks were placed in the House of Lords, 
whereon the judges sit. 



275 



CHAPTER XVIII 

Curious doles Plums at Christmas Dorsetshire 
custom Gloves for the parson Bread and cheese 
for all Scrambling charity Figs and ale 
Pork and petticoats Old love- feasts Bull- 
baiting Poor seamen Lamps in London 
Washing Molly Grime Predilection for colours 
Tombstone chanty Priso?iers at Newgate 
Redeeming English slaves Maid-servants 
Musical bequest " Lion Sermon " Pax Cake 
National events Dancing round John KniWs 
tomb Dole at Hospital of St. Cross at Win- 
chester. 

IN no other way is the eccentricity of human 
nature more clearly manifested than in the 
peculiar methods which men have devised 
for benefiting mankind. We have already 
noticed some strange bequests and remarkable 
charities, and now propose to record others. 
The Charity Commissioners have in recent 
years diverted several charities from their 
original applications, and, in some cases, the 
wishes of the donor have not always been re- 
garded with punctilious exactness; but the 
lapse of time and the wants of other genera- 
tions have necessitated a change in the mode 
276 



Curious Doles 

of application of many charities, and several 
old customs have therefore been doomed to 
destruction. 

Very numerous are the old charities for 
providing beef, bread, coals, strong beer, ale, 
and even tobacco, snuff, plums, and mince- 
pies. At Forebridge, Staffordshire, the chil- 
dren in ancient times complained that they 
had no plums for a pudding at Christmas. 
So the chamberlain of the corporation of 
Stafford was enabled, by the bounty of some 
kind individual, to expend an annual sum at 
Christmas for purchasing plums to be dis- 
tributed among the inhabitants of certain old 
houses in the liberty of Forebridge. The 
Rector of Piddle Hinton, Dorset, according 
to ancient custom, gives away on old Christ- 
mas Day a pound of bread, a pint of ale, 
and a mince-pie to every poor person in the 
parish. Nor is the feast of Lent forgotten. 
John Thake, in 1537, left his property with 
the condition that a barrel of white herrings 
and a cade of red herrings be given to the 
poor of Clavering, Essex ; and a similar be- 
quest was made by Richard Stevenson, of 
Dronfield, Derbyshire, Lord Rich of Felsted, 
Essex, and David Salter of Farnham Royal, 
Bucks, who also ordered that two shillings 
be laid out for the buying of a pair of kid 
gloves for the parson on the first Sunday in 
Lent. Bread and cheese was provided for 
277 



Old English Customs 

every person who slept in the parish of West- 
bere, Kent, three nights previous to the first 
Saturday after old Midsummer Day ; and at 
Paddington bread and cheese were thrown 
down and scrambled for by the people assem- 
bled in the churchyard. At Witney, Oxon, 
after the morning service on Sundays, a 
loaf of bread is given to the poor, and at 
Easter each person is presented with a 
sixpence. 

Figs and ale were provided for the poor 
scholars of the Free School in Giggleswick 
on St. Gregory's Day by the will of William 
Clapham in 1603, and at Harlington, Mid- 
dlesex, the ringers received a leg of pork for 
ringing on November 5th. White peas, rye, 
oatmeal, malt, barley, appear in other bequests. 
A small piece of land, called Petticoat Hole, 
at Stockton, Yorks, is held subject to an 
ancient custom of providing a petticoat for 
a poor woman of Stockton. In the same 
county there is an ancient payment of 33. 4d. 
as the value of a pound of pepper, due from 
the occupier of a farm at Yaptam for taking 
care of the parson's horse, which he is bound 
to do whenever the parson goes there to 
do duty. 

The Weavers' Company, London, pay ten 
shillings a year to the churchwardens of 
St. Clements, Eastcheap, to provide two 
turkeys for the parishioners, to be eaten 

278 



Curious Doles 

at their annual feast, called " the reconcil- 
ing or love feast," formerly held on Maundy 
Thursday. 

To establish bull-baiting seems a curious 
form of charity ; but George Staverton in 
1 66 1 gave the sum of 6 yearly to buy a 
bull to be baited at Wokingham, enjoining 
that the flesh, hide, and offal was to be sold 
and bestowed upon poor children in stockings 
of the Welsh and shoes. The bull was baited 
until 1823, and since that period has been 
put to death in a more merciful manner, and 
the meat given to the poor. 

Charities for the benefit of poor distressed 
soldiers and seamen abound, notably the 
famous one connected with Bamborough 
Castle. There is a special bequest, under 
the control of the minister of St. Mary's, 
Dover, for the widows of drowned men. 

The streets of London in the days of can- 
dles and oil-lamps were dark and dangerous. 
One John Wardall bequeathed to the Grocers 1 
Company a sum for the maintenance of a 
good and sufficient iron and glass lantern for 
the direction of passengers to go with more 
security to and from the waterside all night 
long, to be fixed at the north-east corner of 
St. Botolph's Church. John Cooke in 1662 
did a like service for the corner of St. 
Michael's Lane, near Thames Street, and 
also for the cleaning and sweeping the aisle 
279 



Old English Customs 

of St. Michael's Church, Crooked Lane, 
London, called Fishmongers' Aisle. We 
have already noticed several bequests for 
bell-ringing at night for the guidance and 
direction of travellers. 

The washing of Molly Grime is a curious 
bequest. Seven old maids of Glentham, 
Lincolnshire, received for many years until 
1832 a small sum for washing a tomb in 
the parish church, called Molly Grime, with 
water brought from Newell Well. 

Sometimes donors have striven to im- 
mortalise their names by showing a whimsi- 
cal predilection for colours. Thus Henry 
Greene in 1679 bequeathed money to pro- 
vide four green waistcoats for four poor 
old women, lined with green galloon 
lace ; and Thomas Gray left money for 
grey waistcoats and coats of the same 
colour. 

Leonard Dare in 1 6 1 1 ordered the wardens 
of South Pool, Devonshire, to lay on his 
tombstone four times a year threescore 
penny loaves of good and wholesome bread 
for the poor of the parish. There is a 
notable charity in the custody of the Vicar 
of St. Sepulchre's Church, London, for the 
purpose of causing a bell to be tolled pre- 
vious to every execution at Newgate, and 
certain words of exhortation delivered to 
the condemned prisoners. The prescribed 
280 



Curious Bequests 



words are curious, and commence with the 
rhyme 

" You prisoners that are within, 
Who for wickedness and sin," &c. 

The redeeming of English Christian slaves 
from captivity is not now a very useful object 
for the bequests of the charitable. In 1655 
Alicia, Duchess Dudley, left money for this 
purpose, and there is also the famous Belton's 
charity for the redemption of British slaves 
in Turkey and Barbary. These charities have 
now been diverted to other uses. 

Very numerous are the bequests for the 
encouragement of maid-servants, and a not 
infrequent method of bestowing the charity 
is as follows : Two or three candidates are 
selected and these have to throw dice or 
cast lots for the amount specified in the 
bequest. This was the method adopted at 
Guildford according to the will of John 
How, made in 1674, and at Reading, where 
John Kendrick, John Blagrave, and others 
left money for the benefit of maid-servants. 
The throwing of dice has, however, now 
been discontinued. 

One widow of Westbury, Wilts, named 
Elizabeth Townsend, was so impressed with 
the merits of an anthem composed by her 
late husband's grandfather, that she left a 
bequest to the vicar and choir singers for 
281 



Old English Customs 

the singing of it every year on the Sunday 
preceding the 24th day of June. 

The annual " Lion Sermon " at St. Katha- 
rine Cree Church, Leadenhall Street, founded 
by Sir John Gayer, Lord Mayor of London 
some two and a-half centuries ago, is preached 
every year in commemoration of an episode 
in Sir John's life. Sir John Gayer was a 
merchant venturer, and accompanied an ex- 
pedition to the East, when, getting separated 
from the caravan at night, he found himself 
confronted by lions, prayed the prayer of 
Daniel for deliverance, and his life was saved. 
That night was the i6th of October the 
date commemorated by this annual sermon. 
Another notable episode in the life of Sir 
John Gayer as Lord Mayor was his com- 
mittal to the Tower, with four Aldermen, 
for refusing to comply with the demand 
which Parliament, in 1647, when it no longer 
represented the nation, made upon the Cor- 
poration of London for a subsidy for the 
troops. That incarceration probably hastened 
Sir John's death. He died in the good old 
faith in which he had lived, and left money 
for the maintenance of the " Lion Sermon," 
which records his memory and his wonderful 
deliverance. 

The old custom of the " Pax Cake " is 
still kept up in the united parishes of Sellack 
and King's Capel, Herefordshire. On Palm 
282 



cc Pax Cake" Custom 

Sunday plain cakes are distributed in church, 
the intention being that those who have 
quarrelled should break the cake together, 
and say " Peace and good will," thus making 
up their differences in preparation for the 
Easter Communion. At some period glasses 
of beer were introduced, and the present vicar 
remembers seeing the beer handed round in 
the church ; but this part of the ceremony 
has long been discontinued, and was not 
originally part of the custom. The cost of 
the cakes is defrayed by a rent-charge on a 
farm in the parish. In the same church 
another custom prevails which may be here 
noted. At the celebration of Holy Com- 
munion the altar rails are always covered with 
white linen. This is probably the pre-Refor- 
mation " Houseling Cloth," which has never 
been discontinued in this church. At Foy 
Church, in the same county, a similar custom 
exists. 

Charities have been founded and still exist 
for the preaching of sermons on the defeat 
of the Spanish Armada, the discovery of the 
Gunpowder Plot, to commemorate the pre- 
servation of the donors in the Great Fire of 
London, the victory of Nelson at the battle 
of Trafalgar, the victories of Wellington, 
the commemoration of the ascension of 
George IV., and other national events. And 
we have bequests for the encouragement of 
283 



Old English Customs 

matrimony and horse-racing, providing por- 
tions for poor maids, catechising children, 
buying Bibles, for repeating the Lord's 
Prayer, Apostles' Creed, and Ten Command- 
ments, strewing the church with rushes, to 
awaken sleepers, and whip dogs out of church, 
to dress graves with flowers, to plant rose- 
trees in churchyards, to promote peace and 
goodwill among neighbours, and to en- 
courage many other desirable and excellent 
objects. If all these bequests founded by 
pious benefactors had been successful in secur- 
ing the attainment of the object for which 
their charity was bestowed, our nation would 
have long since become a happy, prosperous, 
and contented people. 

One of the strangest of strange bequests 
is that of John Knill, who died in 1 8 1 1 , and 
had a building called Knill's Mausoleum 
erected near St. Ives. He left sundry be- 
quests of a useful nature, but ordered that 
every five years five pounds should be divided 
among the girls, not exceeding ten years of age, 
who should between ten and twelve o'clock 
in the forenoon of St. James's Day dance for 
a quarter of an hour at least on the ground 
near the Mausoleum, and after the dance 
sing Psalm C. of the old version to " the 
fine old tune " to which the same was then 
sung in St. Ives Church. He provided also 
white ribbons for breast-knots for the girls, 
284 



Pilgrim s Dole 



a cockade for the fiddler, and divers other 
matters, which reveal painfully the vanity 
that lurks in human nature. Mr. Knill's 
will is a long one, and need not be further 
recorded. 

We must not omit to record the old- 
fashioned pilgrim's dole of bread and ale 
which is offered to all wayfarers at the 
Hospital of St. Cross at Winchester. Tra- 
vellers who partake of this refreshment at 
the gate of this fine old almshouse may re- 
flect that they are thus enjoying the bounty 
of William of Wykeham. Emerson once 
made a pilgrimage to the hospital, claimed 
and received the victuals, and triumphantly 
quoted the incident as proof of the majestic 
stability of English institutions. 



285 



CHAPTER XIX 

Army customs Keys at the Tower 12 th Lancers 
and hymn-tunes Scotch traditions of the 1st 
Regiment of Foot Royal Welsh Fusiliers and 
St. David's Day Inkerman Day Royal Berks 
Scots' Greys 7th Hussars 8th Hussars 
Regimental nicknames 14th Hussars Cold- 
stream Guards The Buffs Northumberland 
Fusiliers Suffolk Regiment Lancastrian Fusi- 
liers Relics of American War Royal Canadians 
Cheshire Regiment 7th Fusiliers Duke of 
Cornwall's Light Infantry Black Watch. 

1HE army is so conservative an institu- 
tion that old established customs live long 
therein. The esprit de corps which a soldier 
feels for his regiment makes him eager to 
retain the special observances which have 
been handed down from past ages, and which 
serve to commemorate some brilliant feat 
of arms or honourable association connected 
with the regimental history. A few of these 
customs are here recorded. 

Every night at the Tower of London the 

warder locks the doors and gates, and then 

approaches the guard -house. The guard 

with his assistants turns out at the approach 

286 



Army Customs 

of the party, and the following curious 
dialogue takes place : 

Sentry (challenging) " Halt ! who goes 
there ? " 

Warder (halting)" The keys." 
Sentry" Whose keys ? " 
Warder " Queen Victoria's keys." 
Sentry " Pass, Queen Victoria's keys." 
The warder and party advance; then he 
halts and cries aloud, "God save Queen 
Victoria." The guard present arms, and 
officers and men say in chorus three times 
" Amen, amen, amen." This is a very curi- 
ous relic of the manners and customs of 
ancient times. 

It is difficult to account for a custom 
which prevails in the I2th Lancers, in which 
regiment, at ten o'clock each night outside 
the officers' quarters, the band plays one 
or two hymn-tunes. A similar custom was 
introduced in the loth Hussars in 1866 by 
the late Colonel Valentine Baker ; and as 
he exchanged from the I2th Lancers to that 
regiment, he probably copied the idea from 
them. In the loth Hussars to this day the 
band plays two hymns every evening between 
the first and second post of watch-setting, 
followed by " God Save the Queen." A 
bequest was left for this purpose, and it 
is an example of the close observance of 

1 " London Letters," by George W. Smalley. 

287 



Old English Customs 



tradition existing in the British army. 
Other examples are not wanting to enforce 
the same truth. After mess, or at the close 
of any function, the band of the Norfolk 
Regiment is accustomed to play the familiar 
strains of " Rule Britannia " before the 
National Anthem. The figure of Britannia 
is the distinguishing badge of the regiment, 
and was bestowed upon it by Queen Anne 
for its distinguished conduct at the battle 
of Almanza, during the war of the Spanish 
succession. The regiment thus upheld the 
honour of Great Britain, and was rewarded 
for it by Queen Anne allowing them to wear 
the figure of Britannia on their breastplates. 
The Royal Berks Regiment also have the 
same custom. The Wiltshire Regiment 
greatly distinguished itself at the defence of 
Carrickfergus Castle in 1760 when the French 
invaded Ireland. Their bullets being all ex- 
pended, the men used bricks, stones, and 
even their coat buttons in lieu thereof, and 
for this reason are allowed to have a " splash 
on the buttons." 

A body of Scottish infantry proceeded 
from Scotland to France in the reign of 
James VI. to assist Henry IV. in his wars 
with the Leaguers, and was constituted in 
January 1633 a regiment, afterwards the ist 
on Royal Regiment of Foot, now known as 
the Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment). Many 
288 



Army Customs 

Scottish traditions are kept up in the regi- 
ment, and amongst them the custom of 
" first-footing." A correspondent in Folk- 
Lore^ writes that at midnight on New 
Year's Eve he was startled by the uproar 
in the neighbouring barracks, the shouts 
and the beating of drums, while the band 
played a lively tune as it marched up and 
down the barrack square. The daughters 
of the old sergeant with whom the writer 
lodged brought in cakes and wine and 
claimed to be " first-foot," and thus the 
Royals had preserved the old custom which 
flourished so much in Scotland for more 
than two centuries and a half. 

The Royal Welsh Fusiliers, formerly the 
2 jrd, and the Welsh Regiment (formerly 
the 4 ist), patriotically observe St. David's 
Day, and the wearing of the leek is an 
important part of the ceremonial. The 
origin of this peculiar Welsh custom is un- 
certain. Some say that the practice arose 
in consequence of a victory obtained by 
them under Caedwalla over the Saxons on 
St. David's Day, A.D. 640, when the Welsh 
adopted the leek as a distinguishing badge. 
Shakespeare alludes to the custom in his 
play of Henry V., act iv. scene 7, when 
Fluellen thus addresses the king : 

1 The writer speaks of the custom as a recollection, but we 
doubt not that it is still maintained by the Royals. 

289 T 



Old English Customs 

" Your grandfather of famous memory, an't please 
your Majesty, and your great uncle Edward the 
plack prince of Wales, as I have read in the 
chronicles, fought a most prave pattle here in France. 

" K. Henry. They did, Fluellen. 

" Flu. Your Majesty says very true. If your 
Majesty is remembered of it, the Welshmen did 
goot service in a garden where leeks did grow, 
wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps ; which, your 
Majesty knows, to this hour is an honourable padge 
of the service ; and I do believe your Majesty takes 
no scorn to wear the leek on Saint Tavy's Day." 

This is at least conclusive that the wearing 
of the leek by Welshmen on St. David's Day 
was practised in Shakespeare's time, and this 
custom is still preserved by the Welsh Regi- 
ment and the Welsh Fusiliers. All the men 
in the regiment wear a leek in their busby, 
and their goat, an important member, is 
decked with rosettes and red and blue 
ribbons. At the officers' mess the drum- 
major, accompanied by the goat, marches 
round the table after dinner, carrying a 
plate of leeks. Every officer, or guest, 
who has never eaten one before, is obliged 
to do so, standing on his chair with one foot 
on the table, while the drummer beats a roll 
behind his chair. He is then considered a 
true Welshman. All the toasts are coupled 
with the name of St. David, and the memory 
of a certain Toby Pur cell, major of the regi- 
290 



Army Customs 

ment, who was killed in the Battle of the 
Boyne, is duly honoured. This regiment is 
remarkable in having what is called the 
flash on the back of the neck of the coats 
of the officers and staff sergeants. Every 
regiment wore pig-tails till about the year 
1807, and the supposition is that the Royal 
Welsh Fusiliers, having retained them after 
other regiments had officially discarded them, 
were eventually allowed to retain the flash 
on the coat-collars as a distinction. 

Inkerman Day is observed on November 
5th, and crowds assemble at St. James's Palace 
to witness the relieving of the guard. On 
the last anniversary of this famous victory 
the 3rd Grenadiers were relieved by the ist 
Coldstream, the Queen's colours of both 
battalions, borne by lieutenants, being deco- 
rated with bunches of laurel in memory of 
their deceased comrades. 

The Royal Berks Regiment wear a black 
band on their arm on the 2yth day of July, 
in remembrance of the slaughter of their 
comrades of the second battalion at the 
fatal Battle of Maiwand in the Afghan War. 
There the gallant soldiers of brave Berkshire 
were mowed down by their fierce foe, but 
the regiment nobly maintained their ground. 
The monument in the Forbury Gardens at 
Reading was erected in memory of the death 
of so many heroes. 

291 



Old English Customs 

The 2nd Dragoons, or Royal Scots Greys, 
wear grenadier caps or bearskins instead 
of helmets. This custom is by some be- 
lieved to have originated at the Battle of 
Ramilies in 1706, but it is far more probable 
that the regiment wore grenadier caps from 
the time it was raised. 

The yth (Queen's Own) Hussars was origi- 
nally a Scotch regiment. Although it has 
long since severed its connection with Bonnie 
Scotland, the memory of its original home is 
kept up by the custom of its band playing 
"The Garb of Old Gaul" when marching 
past, and " Hieland Laddie " when trotting. 

The 8th (King's Royal Irish) Hussars pre- 
serve the memory of the brave deeds of the 
regiment by a peculiar mode of wearing the 
sword-belt. The soldiers were permitted to 
wear the sword-belt over the right shoulder, 
instead of round the waist, as is usual in dra- 
goon regiments, on account of the gallant 
conduct of their regiment at the battle of 
Saragossa when they captured the belts of the 
Spanish cavalry. The 8th Hussars were nick- 
named " Cross-belts " in consequence of this 
peculiar privilege. The nicknames of the 
different regiments are full of interest, and 
often recall the memory of some gallant feat of 
arms performed in ancient days, though some 
of the titles are not always complimentary. 
For example, the i ith Hussars, called Prince 
292 



Army Customs 

Albert's Own, because they formed the escort 
of the Prince on his arrival in England, were 
usually called "The Cherry Pickers," from 
their wearing cherry-coloured overalls unlike 
any other cavalry regiment. 

The anniversary of the battle of Ramnug- 
gur, fought in 1848, when the regiment of 
the 1 4th (King's) Hussars defeated an enor- 
mously superior force of the Sikh army, is 
still observed as a great night, and the 
regiment is still known as " The Ramnuggur 
Boys." 

The scarlet plume in the busby of the 1 5th 
(King's) Hussars is assumed in memory of the 
battle of Villiers-en-Couche, fought in 1794, 
when the regiment charged together with the 
Austrian Hussars, and defeated a very large 
company of the enemy. After a review in 
1799, the king granted the troopers the 
honour of decking their helmets with scar- 
let feathers. They well earned the title of 
"The Fighting Fifteenth." 

The Coldstream Guards preserve by their 
name the memory of the famous march of 
General Monck from Coldstream in January 
1 6 60, to restore King Charles II. to the throne 
of England. 

The Buffs enjoy the time-honoured privi- 
lege of marching through the City of Lon- 
don with drums beating and colours flying. 
The origin of the custom is curious. It 

2 93 



Old English Customs 

appears that it was first called the Holland 
Regiment, and was raised in the time of Queen 
Elizabeth to aid the Dutch in their war with 
Spain. The regiment was formed in 1572 by 
the London Guilds, who mustered 3000 men, 
and it was the peculiar privilege of the trained 
bands of the city to march through London 
streets in the manner already described. 

The Northumberland Fusiliers are accus- 
tomed to wear red and white roses in their 
caps on St. George's Day. The origin of 
this custom is doubtless connected with the 
arms of the regiment, St. George and the 
Dragon, and the roses emblazoned on their 
banner. The Fusilier caps were given them 
for their bravery in defeating the French at 
Wilhelmstahl in 1762, and a white plume 
was added for their gallantry at St. Lucia in 
1778. The men plucked the white feathers 
from the hats of the dead Frenchmen and 
put them in their own headgear. 

The Suffolk Regiment wear roses in their 
caps on August 1st, in commemoration of 
the battle of Minden, fought in 1759. The 
Lancashire Fusiliers have a similar custom, 
which arose from the fact that the regiment 
was posted near some gardens, from which the 
men took roses to adorn their hats during 
the battle. 

The East Yorkshire and Loyal North 
Lancashire Regiments fought in the Ameri- 
294 



Army Customs 

can War, and in memory of General Wolfe's 
death wear a black worm in their lace. 

The ist Battalion, Prince of Wales' Lein- 
ster Regiment (Royal Canadians), was raised 
in Canada from the colonial population under 
extraordinary circumstances in 185 8, and was 
designated the looth, or Prince of Wales's 
Royal Canadian Regiment. Whilst in that 
country it took part in the celebration of the 
Confederation of Canada, known as " Domi- 
nion Day," July ist, 1867, and ever since 
the anniversary is regularly observed by all 
ranks of the regiment wearing Canadian 
maple leaves in their headgear; the regi- 
mental colours as well as the officers' mess 
table being also decorated. These leaves are 
specially selected and sent from Canada to 
the regiment wherever it may be serving. 
Special athletic sports and a ball are held. 
When practicable the colours are trooped. 
The regiment, which has for its badge the 
maple leaf, is the only regiment in the army 
having a colonial title. 1 Its nicknames are 
curious, and are as follows : " The Crusa- 
ders," so called by the Canadians from the 
fact of its having been raised to assist in 
the suppression of the Mutiny in the East 
Indies ; " The Wild Indians," owing to the 

1 I am indebted to Captain Dickinson for this information ; 
he tells me that the custom has never been recorded before in 
any other work. 

295 



Old English Customs 

idea that it was recruited from the back- 
woodsmen of North America ; " The Beav- 
ers," from its original badge ; " The Old 
Hundredth," on account of its rank and file 
being much older men than in other regi- 
ments, at the time it was first raised ; and 
from its being the " looth Foot" it was 
named " The Centipedes," which title is said 
to be the invention of some witty Spaniards 
when the regiment was stationed at Gibraltar. 
These distinctive names are preserved by the 
regiment with much veneration and pride. 

The 2nd Battalion of this regiment was 
originally the 3rd Bombay European In- 
fantry of the East India Company's Forces, 
and then the iO9th (Bombay Infantry) Regi- 
ment. It observes with much ceremony 
April 3rd, known as "Jhansi Day," in re- 
membrance of the storm and siege of Jhansi 
(Central India) in 1858, when the regiment 
greatly distinguished itself. A ball takes 
place, and the colours are hung and deco- 
rated with a large laurel wreath. This regi- 
ment is called the " Steel " or " Brass Heads," 
on account of the splendid manner in which 
they stood the terrible exposure to the sun 
in their campaign in Central India. Its con- 
nection with the old East India Company 
is preserved by the painting of their old 
colours on the drums of the battalion in 
conjunction with the " Queen's Colours." 
296 



Army Customs 

The Cheshire Regiment wear oak-leaves 
in their caps on parade. The origin of this 
custom is unknown. The opinion of some 
members of the regiment when questioned 
upon the subject is worthy of record. One 
speaker stated that no other regiment was 
allowed to wear the oak leaf, and " that was 
good enough for him." Another stated that 
the regiment saved the life of King Charles 
II. at the battle of Dettingen, and stood 
around the tree in which the King was hid- 
den. A little historical instruction in the 
army might not be altogether wasted. 

The line battalions and the Tyrone 
Militia battalion of the Royal Inniskilling 
Fusiliers continue to use the old Irish war 
pipes. The- Gloucestershire Regiment pos- 
sesses a unique distinction. It wears the 
badge of the sphinx at the back as well as 
on the front of their caps, in memory of their 
bravery when engaged to the front and rear 
at once at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801. 

One regiment, the yth Fusiliers, do not 
drink the Queen's health at mess. The story 
is that on one occasion some king of Eng- 
land was dining with the officers of the regi- 
ment, and said after dinner that the loyalty 
of the 7th was sufficiently well assured 
without their drinking the Sovereign's health. 
They are extremely proud of this peculiar 
distinction. 

297 



Old English Customs 

The brass feather and red cloth of the 
helmet of the Duke of Cornwall's Light 
Infantry tell a tale of the American War. 
They defeated a strong party of their foes, 
who vowed vengeance on this particular 
corps. They informed the Americans that 
they had stained their feathers red, so that 
they could be distinguished in the fight, and 
that others might not suffer on this account. 

The Black Watch for their bravery at the 
battle of Guildermalsen, Holland, in 1794, 
won the " red heckle/' which is still worn in 
the men's bonnets. 

There are doubtless many other old army 
customs which exist, and few who are ac- 
quainted with their meaning and significance. 
The new Commander-in-Chief of the British 
Army strongly advocates the cultivation of 
esprit de corps by the soldiers. The know- 
ledge of the meaning of these old customs, 
recalling the brave deeds of the regiments in 
former days, would tend greatly to encourage 
the feeling which Lord Wolseley so wisely 
advocates, and inspire the men to emulate 
the valour of their sires. 



298 



CHAPTER XX 

Curious tenures Modern customs Conclusion. 

I HE study of law-books to a layman is 
not usually exhilarating, but the subject of 
tenures presents some features of interest, 
and is not destitute of amusement. So 
curious are some of these tenures, that one 
can but " smile at the inoffensive mirth both 
of our kings in former times, and lords of 
manors in creating them." l Most of them 
have fallen into disuse, or have since been 
converted into rent. Petit Serjeanty have 
been abolished by Act of Parliament as long 
ago as the reign of Charles II. ; but several 
of the customs pertaining to manors have 
lingered on to our times, and the honorary 
services of Grand Serjeanty, relating to per- 
sonal services discharged to the Sovereign, 
remain in full force. Most of these have 
already been mentioned in a preceding chap- 
ter 2 in connection with the Coronation of the 
King, and we will briefly refer to a few other 
tenures of land and customs of manors which 

1 Blount's Fragment a Antiquitatis. 

2 Cf. " Court Customs," Chapter xvi. p. 256. 

299 



Old English Customs 

are remarkable, though they have for the 
most part ceased to be required. 

Blenheim Palace, near Woodstock, is held 
by the Duke of Marlborough by the tenure 
of presenting a banner yearly at Windsor 
Castle, on the 2nd of August, in memory of 
the battle of Blenheim, fought in 1704. 
The honour of Woodstock was given to the 
Duke by Queen Anne for the victory he 
gained on that day. The Duke of Wellington 
holds the manor of Strathfieldsaye by a like 
tenure, and is required to present a banner to 
the Sovereign yearly in memory of Waterloo. 

The Isle of Man was granted to the Stan- 
leys by Henry IV., who required them to 
render to the Sovereign two falcons on the 
day of his coronation. The Barons Furnival 
of Farnham-Royal, Bucks, had to provide a 
glove for the right hand of the king on 
Coronation Day, and to support his right 
arm while he held the sceptre. To serve 
the king with a towel and basons, to provide 
water for the king's hands, to make one mess 
in an earthen pot in the royal kitchen, to 
provide five wafers, to carve, to serve the 
king with a cup, to provide two white cups, 
to take charge of the napery, to be chief 
larderer,to keep the door of the pantry, these 
and many other services on Coronation Day 
are attached to the holding of various manors 
and baronies. 

300 



Curious Tenures 

Nor were these Grand Sergeanties restricted 
only to Coronation Day. Many noble lords 
held manors by the service of carving for the 
king at annual feasts, or serving him, or 
bearing a rod before him, or guarding his 
person (as at Shrewsbury when he lay there), 
or holding the head of the king when he 
should cross the seas and was troubled with 
mat de mer. The lord of the manor of 
Hoton, Cumberland, was obliged to hold 
the stirrup of the king when he mounted 
his horse in Carlisle Castle, and the lord of 
Shirefield had the unpleasant duty of being 
master of the king's meritrices or laund- 
resses, as well as dismembering condemned 
malefactors, and measuring the gallons in 
the king's household. To carry a hawk 
for his Majesty, to present him with a grey 
hood or cap, or a white ensign whenever he 
warred in Scotland, to attend with proper 
arms, a horse, sword, lance, or simple bow 
and arrows whenever his services were re- 
quired, were the duties incumbent upon other 
manor lords. The service of cornage or 
blowing horns was very common, especially 
in the Border counties, where Scottish in- 
vasions were frequent. The owner of King- 
ston Russell, Dorset, was obliged to count 
the king's chessmen, and to put them in a 
bag when the king had finished the game. 
The Bacotes or Beckets of Shrivenham, 
301 



Old English Customs 

Berks, had to meet the king whenever he 
was passing through the town, and present 
two white capons, making the speech : 
" Ecce domine istos duos capones quos alias 
habebitis sed non nunc" 

In former times the Sovereigns used to 
travel frequently through the country, and 
hold their courts at divers places, to keep 
Christmas at Reading, or Easter at Norwich ; 
hence in order to provide for the immense 
royal household, the lords of the neighbour- 
ing manors were required, by virtue of hold- 
ing their estates, to furnish various kinds of 
food for the royal table. These services 
come under the head of Petit Serjeanty. 
Grand Serjeanty is a personal service ; but 
Petit Serjeanty does not require a tenant to 
act in person, but only to render and pay 
yearly to the king certain things, as a man 
pays a rent. Thus the holder of the Barony 
of Biewell, Northumberland, had to find 
thirty soldiers for the guard of Newcastle- 
upon-Tyne. To provide a footman with 
bows and arrows for forty days, or an esquire 
with an haubergeon and a lance to go With the 
king's army into Wales, was incumbent on the 
owners of several manors. Felsted, Essex, 
and many other manors, were held by service 
of keeping two palfreys or one horse for the 
king's use. Arms were also provided in the 
same manner. The lord of Carleton had to 
302 



Curious "Tenures 

furnish a catapult ; the lord of Sholey a pole- 
axe ; the lord of Pole a sword of the value 
of three shillings and fourpence ; the lord of 
Drakelow a bow, quiver, and twelve arrows ; 
he of La Barr one salmon and two barbed 
arrows. Lands at Chichester had to furnish 
a spindle-full of raw thread to make a string 
for the king's cross-bow ; and a manor in 
Dorset provided a curry-comb. The variety 
of these services is indeed remarkable. 
Clothes and provisions for the king's house- 
hold were supplied by various manors, litter 
for the king's bed, rushes for the floor of 
his chamber, gloves turned up with hare's 
skin, scarlet hose, beside an endless supply 
of fat capons and wine for his table. Yar- 
mouth provided a hundred herrings, which 
were baked in twenty-four pies, and conveyed 
by the lord of the manor of East Carlton to 
the king. 

Hunting was ever a sport loved by kings ; 
hence we find many manors burdened with 
the duty of keeping the king's forests, hunt- 
ing wolves and foxes and cats, driving all 
vermin from the royal preserves, and pro- 
viding dogs and hawks. Greyhounds and 
harriers seem to have been special favourites, 
and the prevalence of hawking is abundantly 
exemplified by the number of manors held 
by the serjeanty of falconry. Some manors 
were bound to render certain religious ser- 
303 



Old English Customs 

vice. The lord of Coningston had to say 
daily five Pater-Nosters and five Ave-Marias 
for the souls of the king's progenitors ; the 
lord of Greens-norton held his lands by the 
service of lifting up his right hand towards 
the king yearly on Christmas Day ; the lord 
of Burcester, by providing a light for the 
altar of St. Nicholas. Even the king some- 
times provided for the supply of his own 
offerings at the altar, for we find that when 
he came to hear mass at Maplescaump, Kent, 
the lord of the manor had to provide him 
with a penny for an oblation. 

Sea-coast manors and towns had to pro- 
vide ships for the royal service, and sailors 
to man them, and an endless variety of other 
services existed, such as providing labourers 
for castle-works, paying smoke-silver, fur- 
nishing honey, or nails for the king's vships, 
or tongs, or horse-shoes, frightening away 
wolves, maintaining bridges, or other duties 
which the necessities of the time, or the in- 
genuity of the monarch suggested. 

Nor were the kings the only personages 
entitled to such services. The Counties 
Palatine of Durham, Chester, Ely, and 
others, had royal powers in their own terri- 
tory, and the Bishop of Durham and other 
Palatinate rulers were entitled to the same 
kind of services from various manor-lords 
in their domains which were rendered to the 
34 



Curious Tenures 

king in other parts of the country. More- 
over, the Bishops of Durham were no Jess 
partial to the chase than their royal masters, 
and many lords had to provide them with 
hounds and hawks, and to keep their forests 
in the same manner as Windsor or New 
Forest was preserved for the king. 

Dunmow was not the only place in Eng- 
land where fortunate couples were rewarded 
with a flitch of bacon after passing their first 
year of married life amicably. The manor of 
Whichnor, Stafford, was held by Sir Philip 
de Somervile by the service of providing a 
flitch of bacon and a quarter of wheat for 
all such happy couples. The oath which 
the husband was obliged to take was as 
follows : 

" Hear ye, Sir Philip de Somervile, lord 
of Whichnor, maintainer and giver of this 

bacon, that I , since I wedded , 

my wife, and since I had her in my keeping 
and at my will, by a year and a day after our 
marriage, I would not have changed for none 
other, fairer or fouler, richer or poorer, or 
for none other descended of greater lineage, 
sleeping or waking, at no time. And if she 
were sole and I sole, I would take her to be 
my wife before all women of the world, of 
what conditions soever they be, good or evil, 
as help me God and His saints, and this flesh 
and all fleshes." 

305 u 



Old English Customs 

At Chingford, Essex, an estate was held 
by a very curious tenure. Whenever it 
passed into new hands the owner, with his 
wife, man-servant, and maid-servant, came 
on horseback to the parsonage and did his 
homage by blowing three blasts on his horn ; 
he carried a hawk on his fist, his servant had 
a greyhound in a slip, both for the use of the 
rector on that day. He received a chicken 
for the hawk, a peck of oats for his horse, 
and a loaf of bread for his greyhound. After 
dinner the owner blew three blasts on his 
horn, and then with his party left the 
vicarage. 

Some other tenures were secured by the 
presentation of one clove, horse-shoes, a horn, 
three grains of pepper, and other strange and 
unusual gifts. Wyfold Court is held by the 
tenure of presenting a red rose to the king 
whenever he should pass the house on May 
Day. 

The Castor Whip tenure is remarkable, 
and the custom has only recently died away, 
the last whip used being in the possession of 
Mr. William Andrews, the Hull antiquary. 
On Palm Sunday a servant from the Brough- 
ton estate attended service at Castor church 
with a new cart-whip, and after cracking it 
three times in the porch marched with it 
to the manorial seat. When the clergyman 
began the second sermon he quitted his seat 
306 



Modern Customs 

with his gad-whip, having a purse containing 
thirty pieces of silver fixed at the end of the 
leash, and kneeling down on a cushion held 
the purse suspended over the head of the 
clergyman during the reading of the sermon. 
Then he returned to his seat, and left the 
purse and whip at the manor house. 

Many other curious services and remark- 
able tenures might be mentioned ; but as 
most of them have now become obsolete 
they can scarcely claim a record in a book 
which deals mainly with existing customs. 

Although many of our old customs have 
died new ones have sprung into being, and 
may be regarded as fairly established. The 
observance of " Primrose Day," the birth- 
day of Lord Beaconsfield, has now become 
popular, and the universal wearing of the 
flower on April 2ist by the members of the 
political party to which the noble earl be- 
longed, seems to denote that the custom will 
not soon die, but that it has " come to stay" 
for many years yet. 

The origin of " Primrose Day " is entirely 
due to the energy of one gentleman, Sir 
George Birwood, of the India Office. In 
spite of much discouragement he persevered 
in his endeavour to induce people to mark 
the birthday of Lord Beaconsfield by the 
wearing of the primrose. Letters were written 
to the Times ; advertisements inserted in all 
307 



Old English Customs 

the leading newspapers ; the florists' aid 
solicited ; several noblemen set the example ; 
the enthusiasm spread ; until at length success 
was assured, and " Primrose Day " became 
firmly established as a popular commemora- 
tion of the distinguished politician. It is 
seldom that a custom has arisen so rapidly, 
or that the energy and enthusiasm of one 
gentleman have been responded to so readily 
by a large section of the people. 

There are some misguided people who ad- 
vocate the restoration of the House of Stuart 
to the English Throne, and with much cere- 
mony decorate each year the statues of the 
Stuart monarchs, and drink the health of 
"him who is over the water," as in the 
"good old days" of the old and young 
Pretenders. The last anniversary of the 
martyrdom of the White King was celebrated 
with much ceremony in one of the city 
churches, and splendid white wreaths adorned 
the statue of the ill-fated monarch. 

Possibly many other modern customs 
which can lay no claim to any high anti- 
quity could be added, but which will ere 
long be firmly established amongst us as 
popular ceremonials. 

In concluding this record we would express 

a hope that no important custom has been 

omitted. The collecting of those which we 

have described has been no small task, though 

308 



Conclusion 

it has been a labour lightened by much in- 
terest, and by the ready help of those who 
have so willingly assisted us. We would ven- 
ture to hope that those who are in a position 
to preserve any existing custom in their own 
neighbourhood will do their utmost to pre- 
vent its decay. Popular customs are a heri- 
tage which has been bequeathed to us from 
a remote past, and it is for us to hand down 
that heritage to future generations of English 
folk. If this result be attained, our labours 
will not have been in vain in endeavouring 
to describe the quaint manners and customs 
of the English people at the close of the 
nineteenth century. 



39 



APPENDIX 



BERKSHIRE MUMMING PLAYS 



DRAMATIS PERSONM. 

Molly, a stalwart man, dressed in woman's gown, shawl, and 
bonnet, with a broom in hand. A ludicrous imitation is 
given of a woman's voice. 

King George, dressed as a knight, with helmet and clothes 
covered with strips of coloured paper, and a sword, &c. 

Beau Slasher, a French officer. 

Doctor, arrayed in tail-coat, knee-breeches, &c. 

Jack Vinny, a jester, with a tall fool's-cap. 

Happy Jack, dressed in tattered garments. 

Old Beelzebub, with a long white beard, as Father Christmas. 



MOLLY enters^ flourishing her broom, and pretending to 
sweep with it. 

A room, a room, I do presume, 

For me and my brave men ; 

For we be come this Christmas-time 

To make a little rhyme. 

And 'ere we come at Christmas time, 

Welcome, or welcome not, 
Hoping old Father Christmas 

Will never be forgot. 
Last Christmas Day I turned the spit, 
Burned my ringers, and of it yet. 
310 



^Appendix 



A spark flew over the stable, 

The skimmer hit the ladle. 

Ah ! says the gridiron, can't you two agree ? 

I be the justice, bring 'em afore me. 

And now we shows activity of youth, 

Activity of age ; 
Such action you never see upon 

Another stage. 

And if ye won't believe what I have had to say, 
Walk in, King George, and clear the way. 

Enter KING GEORGE. 

King George. I be King George, a noble knight, 
I lost some blood in English fight ; 
I care not for Spaniard, French, nor Turk, 
Where's the man as can do I [ = me] hurt ? 
And if before me he dares stand, 
I'll cut him down with this deadly hand. 
I'll cut him and slash him as small as flies, 
And send him to the cookshop to make mince pies 
And so let all your voices sing 
As I'm the royal British king. 

Enter FRENCH OFFICER. 

French Officer. I be a bold French officer 
Beau Slasher is my name, 
And by my sharp sword at my side, 
I hope to win the game. 
My body's lined with lead, 
My head is made of steel ; 
And I be come from Turkish land 
To fight thee in the field. 



^Appendix 



King George. Oh ! Slasher, Slasher, don't thou be 

too hot, 

For in this room thee'lt mind who thee has got ; 
So to battle, to battle, let thee and I try 
To see which on the ground first shall lie. 

[ They fight, their swords dapping together 
with great noise. After a little fighting 
the French Officer hits King George in 
the leg, which causes him to fall. 
Molly. Doctor ! Doctor ! make no delay, 
But make thee haste and come this way. 
Doctor ! Doctor ! where be'st thee ? 
King George is wounded in the knee 
Ten pounds if that noble Doctor was here. 

Enter DOCTOR. 

Doctor. I be the noble Doctor Good, 
And with my skill I'll stop his blood. 
My fee's ten pounds, but only five 
If I don't raise this man alive. 

[Feels his pulse and shakes his leg. 
This man be not quite dead ; see how his leg shakes, 
And I've got pills as cures all ills, 
The itch, the stitch, the palsy, and the gout, 
Pain within and pain without, 
And every old woman dead seven year, 
If she's got one tooth left to crack one of these here. 
[He holds up a box, shakes it to rattle the 
pills, opens it, takes a large one and 
stuffs it into the King's mouth. 
Rise up, King George, and fight again, 
And see which of you first is slain. 

[King George jumps up and fights with the 
French Officer still fiercer than before. King 
George hits the Officer, who falls down flat. 
312 



^Appendix 



Molly. Doctor ! Doctor ! do thy part ; 
This man is wounded to the heart. 
Doctor, can you cure this man ? 

Doctor. No, I see he's too far gone. 

Molly. Then walk in, Jack Vinny. 



Enter JACK VINNY. 

Jack Vinny. My name is not Jack Vinny ; 
My name is Mr. John Vinny 
A man of fame, come from Spain, 
Do more than any man again. 

Doctor. Well, what can'st thee do, Jack ? 
Jack Vinny. Cure a magpie with the toothache. 
Doctor. How? 

Jack Vinny. Cut his head off and throw his body 
into the ditch. 

Doctor. Well, cure this man. 

Jack Vinny. If he'll take one drop out of my drug 

bottle, 

Which is one pennyworth of pigeon's milk 
Mixed with the blood of a grasshopper, 
And one drop of the blood of a dying donkey, 
Well shaken afore taken, 
I'll be bound he'll rise up and fight no more. 
Give me my spectacles. 

[A wooden pair of spectacles is handed to him. 
Give me my pliers. 

\A large-sized pair of pliers is handed to 
him. He proceeds to draw out one of 
the Officer's teeth, and exhibits a large 
horse's tooth. 

Here's a tooth enough to kill any man, 
But I will cure this man. 

313 



^Appendix 



I come from Spain and thee from France ; 
Give us thy hand, rise up and dance. 

\French Officer rises. The two dance to- 
gether. 
Molly. Walk in, Happy Jack. 

Enter HAPPY JACK. 

Happy Jack. I be poor old Happy Jack, 
With wife and family at my back ; 
Out of nine I have but five, 
And half of them be starved alive. 
Roast-beef, plum-pudding, and mince-pie, 
Who likes them here better than I? 
The roads be dirty, my shoes be bad, 
So please put something into my bag. 

Molly. Come in, Father Beelzebub, 
Who on thy shoulder carries a club, 
Under thy arm a dripping-pan, 
Ben't he now a jolly old man ? 

Enter BEELZEBUB. 

Beelzebub. Here comes I, ain't been yet, 
With my great head and little wit j 
My head's so big, and my wit's so small, 
So I brings my fiddle to please ye all. 

[ Commences to play on the fiddle, and all 
dance a reel. Molly walks round and 
collects money from spectators. 



END OF PLAY. 



^Appendix 

In the neighbourhood of Reading, at 
Compton, and other places, a Turkish Knight 
takes the place of the French Officer, and 
announces himself in the following lines : 

Here comes I, a Turkish Knight, 
Come from Turkey-land to fight ; 
I myself and seven more, 
Fought a battle of eleven score 
Eleven score of well-armed men \ 
We never got conquered it by them. 

King George replies : 

Whoa, thou little fellow, as talks so bold ; 

'Bout they other Turkish chaps I've been told. 

Draw thy sword, most parfile knight, 

Draw thy sword and on to fight, 

For I'll have satisfaction before I goes to-night. 

My head is made of iron, 

My body's made of steel ; 

And if ye won't believe me, 

Just draw thy sword and feel. \Theyfight. 

In the Steventon mummers' play King 
George calls himself the " Africky King." 
Beau Slasher, the French officer, fights with 
him. At Bright-Walton, Molly is known as 
Queen Mary, possibly a corruption of the 
Blessed Virgin. The play in this village is 
performed in most approved fashion, as the 
Rector has taken the matter in hand, coached 
the actors in their parts, and taught them 

315 



^Appendix 



some elocution. It is acted in the school- 
room in a village entertainment, where it 
affords great delight to the rustics, no less 
than to the performers themselves. 

The mumming play as performed at Islip, 
Oxon, in December last, is thus reported by 
an eye-witness and faithful recorder of old 
customs : 

DRAMATIS PERSONS. 

Molly, an old woman, in a sun-bonnet, carrying a broom. 

King George, carries a broadsword. 

Duke of Northumberland, carries a broadsword. 

Doctor^ blue coat with brass buttons. 

Beelzebub, black face, bludgeon in one hand, frying-pan in the 

other. 
Fat Jack, has large hump on his back, and carries thick stick. 

Enter MOLLY, with broom in hand. 

In comes I, old Molly, sweeping up. 

Merry, merry Christmas and happy New Year, 

Pocket full of money and cellar full of beer. 

I had six children last night ; I bred them up in a 

tinder-box. 
I had a slice of bread and lard given me the night 

before ; 
I eat all that myself. Don't you think I am a jolly 

old other mother to them all ? 
(Shouts) Come in, next man. 

Enter NORTHUMBERLAND, brandishing sword. 

In come I, the Royal Duke of Northumberland, 
With my broadsword in my hand. 



^Appendix 



Where's the man that would dare to bid me 
stand ? 

I would cut him as small as flies, 

And send him to the cookshop to make mince- 
pies, 

Mince-pies hot, mince-pies cold ; 

I'd send him to the Old Man before he's nine days 

old. 
Molly. Come in, next man. 



Enter KING GEORGE, brandishing sword. 

Where is that man that dares to bid me stand ? 
Although he swaggers and swears he'd cut me up as 

small as flies, 

And send me to the cookshop to make mince-pies, 
Mince-pies hot, mince-pies cold, 
And send me to the Old Man before I'm nine days 

old. 

Battle to battle betwixt you and I, 
See which is on the ground first, you or I. 
Guard your blows and guard your nose, 
Or down on the ground you quickly goes. 

[ They fight^ and Northumberland falls. 
King. 1 Doctor ! Doctor ! I've killed a man. 
Doctors voice from without. More like a monkey, 

and stole his face. 

King. Doctor ! Doctor ! do your part, 
For King George is wounded to the heart, 

1 There is an obvious blunder here. If "King George is 
wounded to the heart," then he, and not Northumberland, 
ought to fall, and the dialogue should be spoken by Northum- 
berland. 

3 1 ? 



^Appendix 



From the heart to the knee ; 

I'll give five shillings for a good old doctor like thee. 

Doctor. I shan't come for five shillings, or nothing 
like it. 

King. Ten shillings, then. 

Doctor. That's more like it. 

King. Come in, Jack Spinney ! 

Enter DOCTOR. 

My name's not Jack Spinney, 
My name's Mister Spinney 
A man of great pain, 
Do more than you or any man again. 
King. What can you do so clever? 
Doctor. Cure the magpie of toothache. 
King. How should you do it ? 
Doctor. Cut off his head and throw his body in the 
ditch. 

King. Come and serve this man the same. 
Doctor. In comes I, old Doctor Good, 
Whose hands are never stained with blood. 

I'm not one of these quick-quack doctors. I come 
to do the good of the country, both to ladies and 
gentlemen. 

I can cure the hip, the pip, 
The palsy and the gout ; 
And if the Old Man's in that man, 
I can fetch him out. 
I've travelled Old England, Scotland, Wales, and 

Spain, 
Take one of my soft pills and rise again. 

[Gives pill) and Northumberland rises. 
Come in, next man. 

318 



^Appendix 



Enter BEELZEBUB. 



In comes I, old Beelzebub, 
On my shoulders I carry my club ; 
In my hand a frying-pan; 
Don't you think I'm a jolly old man ? 
Come in, next man. 

Enter FAT JACK. 

In comes I, old Fat Jack, 

My wife and family at my back; 

My wife's so big, my family small, 

I've brought you a rattle to please you all. 

\They all dance round the room. Molly 

falls down and groans. 
King. My wife Susannah looks very ill. 
Doctor. What's her complaint ? 
King. Toothache, I think. 
Doctor. Fetch my horse, Jack. 
Fat Jack. I shan't. Fetch it yourself. 
Doctor. What ! Keep a dog and bark myself ! 
Fetch him this minute. (Fat Jack brings up one of 
the disengaged characters, and Doctor tries to get on 
his back ; he plunges about.) Give us a leg up, Jack. 
Woa ! woa ! (Doctor is thrown off.) Jack, you give 
my horse too much corn. 

Fat Jack. I only give him a bean and a half. 
Doctor. That's a bean too much. 
Fat Jack. Feed him yourself next time. 
(Doctor examines Molly, and gets out a pair of 
pincers.) Toothache, you think? 
King. Yes. 
Doctor. Just come and give a pull then. (Takes 

319 



^Appendix 



hold of nail which Molly has sticking out of her mouth.} 
Pull! (Fails to draw it.) That's not got him. Pull ! 
(Draws out nail.} That's got him. Why, here's a 
tooth as long as a two-inch nail, and got roots like a 
poplar tree. I'll put that in my pocket for a keepsake. 
Bring me any old woman that's been dead 

seven years, 

Seven years laid in her grave, 
She could rise up and eat bread and cheese 

heartily, 

Her life I am bound to save. 
I've travelled Old England, Scotland, Wales, 

and Spain, 
Take one of my pills and rise again. 

[ Molly takes pill and rises. 

FINIS. 

At Bampton, in Oxfordshire, the follow- 
ing play is performed at Christmas : 

FATHER CHRISTMAS. 

In comes I, old Father Christmas, 

Welcome in, or welcome not ; 
And I hope that I, old Father Christmas, 

Will never be forgot. 

There's a time for work, and a time for play, 
A time to be merry, and a time to be gay ; 
A time to be tipsy, a time to be free, 
It's true enough this Christmas-time we all so jovial be. 
King George, the Doctor, and the Turk will here 

together meet, 

The Doctor with his physic, and bright, sharp swords 
set. 

320 



^Appendix 



For one will kill the other, and the Doctor will raise 
him up. 

How happy we shall be with our regious [?] Christ- 
mas-cup. 

Bold Robin Hood and Little John will pass the beer 
pot round, 

Two little jovial chaps never could be found. 

Come in, King George. 

Enter KING GEORGE. 

In comes I, King George ; from over the sea I came ; 
My name it is King George, and you shall hear the same. 
First I fought in France, and then I fought in Spain, 
Now I come to Old England to fight the rich Turk 

o'er again. 

I saw the rich Turk standing by, 
He took an oath that I should die. 
I cut him, I pierced him, and brought him to the 

slaughter, 
And by that means I married the King of Egypt's 

daughter. 

Enter TURKISH KNIGHT. 

Turkish Knight. Here comes I, the Turkish 

Knight ; 

I've come from Turkish land to fight ; 
And of King George, if he be here, 
I'll make his heart both quake and fear. 
King George, if you and I we can't agree, 
Pull out your sword and fight with me. 

King George. I, King George, will pull out my 

sword and fight with thee ; 
I'll pull out my purse and pay ; 
We'll have good satisfaction before we go away. 
321 x 



^Appendix 



Turkish Knight. I will in with thee for life, or value 
thee not ; thou must give up sooner or later on, or 
else no more room for immortality. 

So mind your eyes and guard your blows, 
Or else I tap you on the nose. 

[They fight, and Turkish Knight falls. 

King George. Two hundred pounds would I put 

down 

If there's a doctor to be found. \_JVo answer. 

Three hundred pounds would I put down 
If there's a doctor to be found. [A knock is heard. 
Who's there? 

Doctor. The Doctor. 

King George. Come in, Doctor. Where dost thou 
come from, good Doctor ? 

Doctor. Italy, Sitaly [Sicily], Germany, France, and 

Spain ; 
There is my home, there I return again. 

King George. What sort of disease do thy pills 
cure, good Doctor ? 

Doctor. All sorts of disease. 
The itch, the stitch, the palsy, and the gout, 
Pains within and pains without. 
I'll also cure the magpie of toothache. 

King George. How do you do that, Doctor ? 

Doctor. Why, cut his head off and throw his body 
in the ditch. Or bring to me an old woman seventy 
years dead, seventy-seven years laid in her grave ; if 
she can raise up her head and crack one of my 
wimple-pimple pills, I lay a fifty-pound bond from all 
human ills her life to save. If there's another quack 
doctor in the land, and can do any more than I can, 
just let him come and raise this dead man. 

Come in, Jack Finney. 

322 



^Appendix 



Jack Finney. Here comes I, as ain't been hit, 
With my big head and little wit ; 
My head's too big, my wit too small, 
I will endeavour to please you all. 
Ladies and gentlemen, my name is not Jack Finney. 
Doctor. Then what is thy name ? 
Jack Finney. Mr. Finney, a man of great fame ; 
I does more work than thee or any other man. 
Doctor. Then what can'st thou do ? 
Jack Finney. I'll cure this man if he's not quite 

dead. 

So being the case as it was before, 
My bold fellow, rise up thy head and fight once more. 
Come in, Tom the Tinker. 
Tom. Here comes I, old Tom the Tinker ; 
I am no small-beer drinker. 
I told the landlord to his face 
The chimney-corner was his place, 
And there he sat and dried his face, 
Old Tom Giles and I. 
My face is black, my beard is long, 
My hat's tied on with a bratten thong. 
Ladies and gentlemen, give me a copper or two to 
get a shave and go to church on Sunday. 

As I was going down a narrow, wide, straight, 
crooked lane, I met a white pig with a long horse's 
mane. I went a bit farther and came to a pig-sty, 
tied up to an elder bush, built with apple-dumplings, 
and slated with pancakes. I thought 'twas all good 
for trade. 

I knocked at the maid, 

And out fled the door ; 

The pig began to shake, 

And the house began to grunt and roar. 

323 



^Appendix 



She asked me if I could eat a half-pint of good ale 
and drink a crust of cheese. I said " No, thank 
you," but " Yes, if you please." I went a bit farther, 
and comes to two old women a snip-snopping. One 
cut a barley-corn through a ten-foot wall, and then 
cut the bottom out of a cast iron pot. The other 
killed a poor dead dog. I took pity on this poor 
dead dog. I turned him inside outwards, strap band 
outwards ; took him on top of Buckland Hill, barking 
backwards, throwed him in a dry ditch and drowned 
him. 

Thus ends the first part of this strange 
performance. 

The second part commences with the 
entrance of Father Christmas. 

FATHER CHRISTMAS. 

Room ! a room ! a rhyme please to give me, and 
my brave gallant comrades room to rhyme, to rhyme 
this merry Christmas-time. Apt to the aged, apt to 
the life, like was never seen or done upon a common 
stage. Stage or no stage stage of King George 
come in, thou Royal. 

Enter KING OF PRUSSIA. 

King. Here comes I, the Royal of Prussia King, 
bound to defend all Christians from all harm. I care 
for no man, neither Austrian, Spanish, French, Dutch, 
nor Turks. I'm sure no man will do me harm. Let 
all their voices raise the ring, I am the Royal of 
Prussia King. 

Come in, thou soldier bold. 
324 



^Appendix 



Enter SOLDIER. 
Soldier. In comes I, the soldier bold, Bold 

Slaughterer is my name, 
With sword and sash hung by my side, I hope to win 

the game. 

Where is the man that bids me stand, 
Who swore he'd kill me sword in hand ? 
I'd cut him, and pierce him as small as flies, 
And send him to Jamaica to make mince-pies, 
Mince-pies hot, mince-pies cold, 
I'd send the cook to fetch him before he's nine days old 

Enter KING GEORGE. 
I count myself as good as thee. 

King George. So does I as good as thee. 
So battle, to battle, let thee and I try 
To see which on the ground dead first shall lie. 
So mind your eyes and guard your blows, 
Or else I'll tap you on the nose. 

[They fight, and the Soldier Bold of 
Prussia falls. 

King George. Is there a doctor in the land 
That'll cure this man that's on the ground ? 

Doctor. Yes, there's a doctor in the land, 
Capable of head and hand ; 
And if this man has got a cough, 
I'll cure him without cutting his head off. 
And if this man has lost his head, 
I'll put a donkey's on instead. : 
And if this man will pay me well, 
No secret will I ever tell ; 
And if he won't, I'll leave him as a sinner, 
And he shall eat a bunch of thistles for his Christmas- 
dinner. 

325 



^Appendix 



Such being the case, as it were before, 
Raise up thy head and fight no more. 
Come in, Bold Robin Hood. 

Robin Hood. Here comes I, bold Robin Hood, 
with bended bow of yew-tree wood, my arrows 
sharp, and for my quiver 
I'll choose an elderly man's good fat liver. 
Down under the greenwood tree, 
Merrily I come to thee, 
To hunt the deer with horn and hound, 
And bring our joys this way. 
And when we get the nut-brown ale, 
We'll start the hunting day. 
Come in, brave Little John. 
Little John. Here comes I, brave Little John, 
With my quarter-staff I'll play the Don ; 
I'm not the man to cheat your cousin, 
But knock men's brains out by the dozen. 
Last Christmas-eve I turned the spit, 
Burnt my ringers, and finds on't yet. 
The skimmer run after the ladle, 
The sparks fled over the table. 
Ho ! ho ! said the gridiron, can't you two agree ? 
Then, Oh, ho ! said he, I'm the Justice, come, bring 

him to me. 

Come all ye jolly comrades, come listen unto me, 
It's my belief, and join with us this merry Christmas- 
eve; 

For what I've said and done will please the corum, 
And I'll drink all your honours in a jorum. 

So ends this curious piece of mummery. 
326 



^Appendix 



MELODIES OF THE MORRIS DANCERS 
AT BAMPTON, OXON, 

AS SUNG AT THE WHITSUNTIDE CLUB FEASTS. 

GREEN GARTERS. 



First for the stockings, and then for the shoes, And 



jr "ff h 

SEE* 



%i 



then for the bon - ny green gar - - ters ; A 
pair for me, and a pair for you, And a 



pair for them that come ar - - ter. 



CONSTANT BILLY. 




Oh, my Bil - ly, my con - stant Bil - ly, 



When shall I see my Bil- ly a- gain? 
327 



^Appendix 






When the fish - es fly o - ver the mountains, Oh, 
then you will see your Bil - ly a - gain. 



THE WILLOW TREE. 
Once they said my lips were red, 



Now they're scar - let pale, When 












like a sil - ly girl be - 



liev'd his flatt' - ring tale, For he 



vow'd he'd ne - ver de - ceive me, And so 







fond - ly I be - liev'd he While the 

328 



^Appendix 

stars and the moon so sweet - ly shone, 







m 






i 1 1 


5T J 


J 


~r 


i 


K : 




fn\ 




^ 






J II 








J 





9 \\ 



O - ver the wil - low tree. 



BOB AND JOAN. 






I won't be my fa - ther's Jack, And 



^====*=*=4 



I won't be my mo - ther's Jill, But 

j 






I will be some fid - dler's wife, Then 

-g , Nr-nr1 






n 



we can muse it at our will ; 



T'o-ther lit - tie tune, t'o-ther lit - tie tune, 



Bob at night, and Bob at noon. 

329 




^Appendix 



'BACCA-PIPE JIG, OR GREENSLEEVES. 

















THE MAID OF THE MILL. 



fcfe 



There are fif - ty fair maid - ens that 







sport on the green, I gaz'd on them well as you 






see; . 



But the Maid of the Mill, the 






Maid of the Mill, The Maid of the Mill for 

330 



^Appendix 




me. She is straight and tall as a 



pop - lar tree, Her cheeks are red as a 










rose ; . . . . She is one of the fairest young 



girls I see, h dress'd in her Sun - day clothes. 



THE BOAR'S HEAD SONG 

(As sung at Queen's College, Oxford], 



BASS SOLO. 



m 



The Boar's head in hand bear I, be-deck'd with 






bays and rose - ma - ry, And I pray you, mas - ters, be mer- 









ry, Qui es - tis - in con - vi - vi - o. 



33 1 



^Appendix 



CHORUS. 




L _cn Lc-^L^jL^jJL^ii.yrsSiar 



Ca-put a - pri de - fe - ro, Red-dens lau-des Do - mi - no. 



Ca-put a - pri de - fe - ro, Red-dens lau-des Do - mi - no. 



Ca-put a - pri de - fe - ro, Red-dens lau-des Do - mi - no. 






Ca-put a - pri de - fe - ro, Red-dens lau-des Do - mi - no. 



BASS SOLO. 






The Boar's head, as I un - der - stand, Is the brav - est 



r p .^^-^ f ? . & (O 

g^TF P]I I] iPr 1 ]^^ 



dish in all the land, When thus be-deck'd with a gay gar- 






land, Let us ser - vi - re can - ti - - co. 

[CHORUS. 

332 



Appendix 



BASS SOLO. 



Our stew - ard hath pro - vi - ded this, In ho - nour 



vi [1 1 . I I- I F I 



of the King of Bliss, Which on this day to be ser - ved 

a. 



m 



is In Re - gi - nen - si A - tri - o. 

[CHORUS. 



333 



INDEX 



ABBOT BROMLEY, 139 
Abbots Ann, 173 
Aberford, 16, 29 
Accrington, 203 
Agganowing, 44 
Aldeby, 234 
Aldermaston, 242 
Aldershot, 247 
Allan Day, 171 
Allerton, 131 
All Fools' Day, 93 
All Hallow Eve, 166 
All Souls' Day, 28, 167 
All Saints' Day, 166 
Alnwick, 65, 236 
Ambleside, 132 
Angelus, 238 
Anglesey, 79 

Animals on Christmas night, 
Anthem singing, 282 
Appleby, 251 
Apple trees, 46, 47 
Apples, 171 
Army customs, 286 
Arval bread, 203 
Ascension Day, 115, 117 
Ashover Church, 174 
Ashton-under-Lyne, 87, 130 
Auction customs, 242 

BAAL fires, 142 
Bacon, 175 
Baldon, 61 

Bamborough Castle, 279 
Bampton, 99, 124 
Banbury, 166 
Banffshire, 45 



Barford customs, 121 

Barring out, 24 

Barrowden, 133 

Bartlehill, 255 

Basingstoke, 39 

Bath, 73 

Beccles, 234 

Beckets, 301 

Beckley, 160 

Bedfordshire, 71, 233 

Beehives, putting crape on, 204 

Bells, 232 ; at executions, 280 ; 
at New Year, 21, 22 ; pan- 
cake bell, 60 ; passing bell, 
20, 201 

Beltane fires, 144 

Bequests, curious, 277 

Berkshire, 9, 55, 60, 155, 161, 
179, 250 

Berkshire Regiment, 288, 291 

Bermondsey, 164 

Berwick, 211 

Bibles, raffling for, 252 

Biddenden, 81, 158 

Biewell, Barony of, 302 

Birmingham, 248 

Births, royal, 266 

Biscuits, funeral, 202 

Bishops Lydeard, 197 

Bisley, 188 

Black cap, 215 

Black-Lad, riding the, 87 

Blackpool, 130 

Black Watch Highlanders, 298 

Blenheim Palace, 300 

Bletherhead bands, 14 

Blue Coat School custom, 76 



335 



Index 



Boar's Head feast, 22-24 

Bodmin, 236 

Bolton, 105 

Borough English, 212 

Boston, 210 

Bottle-kicking, 85 

Boundary-riding, 227 

Bounds, beating the, 115 

Boxing Day, 35 

Bradford, 13, 131 

Braunceston, 138 

Breast laws, 208 

Bridestowe, 63 

Bridgled, 183 

Bridgwater, 205 

Brighouse, 131 

Brighton, 74, 170 

Brightwalton, 103 

Brindle custom, 128 

Bristol, 210 

Brittany, 143 

Brixham, 252 

Bromyard, 238 

Buckinghamshire, 71, 198, 251 

Buffs, the, 293 

Bull-baiting, 279 

Burchester, 304 

Burgh ead, 30 

Burial customs, 201 

Bury, 69 

Bury St. Edmunds, 236 

Butchers serenading, 172 

Buxton, 1 88 

CAKES, 33, 34, 68, 166 ; Simnel, 

69 

Calening, 46 
Cam borne, 172 
Cambridge, 98, 236 
Cambridgeshire, 17, 48, 73 
Candle sale, 242 
Care Sunday, 70 
Carfax, 236 
Carlton, East, 303 
Carnarvonshire, 79, 236 
Carnbrea Hill, 143 
Cam Galver, 143 
Cam Martle, 143 



336 



Carols, 1 6 

Castle an Dinas, 143 

Castor whip tenure, 306 

Catterning, 169 

Chaff scattering, 195 

Chaldecote, 108 

Channel Islands, 207 

Charleston, 237 

Charlton on Otmoor, 100 

Charm, old, 250 

Cheltenham, 98 

Chertsey, 238 

Cheshire, 26, 80, 120, 168, 237 

Cheshire Regiment, 296 

Chester, County Palatine of, 

304 

Chester-le-Street, 6$ 
Chewidder, 30 
Chichester, 303 
Chiltern Hundreds, 270 
Chimney-sweeps' customs, 99 
Chingford, 306 
Chorley, 129 
Christmas, 8, 25, 277 ; boxes, 

35 ; cards, 36 ; gift books, 35 ; 

tree, 19 ; watching animals, 

5 2 

Christ's Hospital, London, 88 
Church Calendar, 7 
Churchdown, 234 
Churches, clipping of, 66 
Church Minshull, 60 
City Companies' Halls, 223 
Civic customs, 220 
Claire, 30 

Clameur de Haro, 206 
Clavering, 277 
Clayton, 131 
Clemmening, 169 
Clifton custom, loo 
Clipping of churches, 66 
Club feasts, 123 
Clyack, 151 

Coldstream Guards, 293 
Colchester, 226 
Coleshill, 86 
Colne, setting the, 227 
Common riding, 118 



Index 



Coningston, Barony of, 304 

Conservancy, Court of, 226 

Coquille, 64 

Corby, 243 

Cornwall, 14, 17, 1 8, 20, 29, 33, 

52, 53, 67, 105, 140, 142, 

152, 183, 197, 200 
Cornwall Light Infantry, 297 
Coronation customs, 261 
Coronation stone, 264 
Corpse roads, 204 
Country dances, 127 
Court customs, 50, 72, 256 
Court-leets, 211 
Court of Exchequer, 212 
Courts of justice, ceremonial at, 

218 

Court of pied-poudre, 209 
Courtship customs, 198 
Coventry, 245 
Coychurch, 183 
Cradle-land tenure, 213 
Cradle presented to Mayor, 

226 

Cranfield, 233 
Crewkerne, 240 
Crowan, 197 

Culworth, 60, 233, 234, 239 
Cumberland, 25, 248 
Curfew bell, 234 
Curious doles, 277 
Customs, old, decay of, I ; causes 

of decay, I ; survival of, 3 ; 

origin of, 5-7 

DALSTON, 25 

Dalton-in-Furness, 249 

Dancing on Good Friday, 74 

Daventry, 233 

Death ride, 129 

Delaval Avenue (Northumber- 
land), 253 

Denhohne, 131 

Denton, 108 

Derby, 183 

Derbyshire, 18, 174, 186, 203, 
247 

Desford, 148 



Devil's passing bell, 232 

Devonshire, II, 47, 152 

Dewsbury, 20, 232 

Dockyard customs, 170 

Donnington, 109 

Doos, Yule, 33 

Dorking, 66, 179 

Dorsetshire, 156, 179 

Drakelow, 303 

Driffield, 155, 234 

Dronfield, 277 

Dumping, 155 

Dunchurch, 214 

Duncton, 46 9 

Dunford, 17, 56, 107, 154 

Dungannon, 211 

Dunmow, 177 

Dunmow flitch, 175 

Duns, 66 

Dunstable, 71 

Durham, 236 

Durham, Bishop of, 304 

Durham Cathedral custom, 121 

Durham, County Palatine of, 

304 
Dyers' Company, 225 

EASTCHEAP, 278 

Easter customs, 78 

Eccles, 166 

Eccleshall, 14 

Eddinbury, 197 

Eddlesborough, 71, 102, 120 

Edinburgh, 38 

Edmonton, 213 

Eggs^ 78 ; clapping for, 79 ; 

rolling, 80 
Ely, 211 

Ely, County Palatine of, 304 
Enderby, 146 
Endon, 186 
Enfield, 164 
Enthroning, 263 
Epiphany custom, 256 
Ep worth, 241 
Essex, 30 

Eton School, 87, 89 
Ever ton, 166 



337 



Index 



Exeter, 236 


Gingerbread fairs, 248 


Eyam, 200 


Gipsy custom, 254 




Glamorganshire, 183 


FAIRS, 244 


Glaston, 54 


Farnham, 247 


Gleaning bell, 234 


Farnham Royal, 277, 300 
Feasten Sunday, 140 


Glentham, 280 
Gloucestershire, 68, 106 


Felton, 255 


Gloves in churches, 174 


Felsted, 277 


Gloves, kid, 277 


Feist ed, Barony of, 302 


Godiva, Lady, 245 


Festivals, 7 


Godolphin Hill, 143 


Feudalism, relic of, 249 


Good Friday, 72 


Figs, 278 


Goodening, 26 


Fig Sunday, 71 


Gooding, 26, 171 


First-footing, 37, 288 


Gosforth, 5 


Fishermen's customs, 30 


Goulgrave, 183 


Flamborough, 174 


Grasmere, 133 


Flitch of bacon, 305 


Gray's Inn, 216 


Flower sermon, 140 


Great Gransden, 27, 48, 107, 


Folkstone, 164 


131 


Football, 64, 66 


Great St. Mary's, Cambridge, 


Footing, pay one's, 252 


240 


Forebridge, 277 


Great Wakering, 234 


Foy, 283 


Greenham, 204 


Freemasons, 23 


Green's Norton, 304 


Fritter-bell, 233 


Guild, 245 


Frumenty, 221 


Guild, Preston, 228 


Fulham, 213 ; Palace, 241 


Guildford, 74, 209, 211, 281 


Funeral customs, 201 


Guisers, 14 


Funerals, royal, 266 


Gunpowder Plot, 160 


Furmety, 17, 29, 51, 69 


Guns, firing, under apple trees, 


Furnival, Baron, 300 


47 


Furry dance, ill 


Gunton, 200 


Fusiliers, 7th, 297 


Guy Fawkes' Day, 160 


Fusswaschung, 258 






HACKNEY, 213 


GANG Week, 115 


Hallaton, 83 


Garlands, 101 
Garlands in churches, 174 


Hallering largess, 154 
Hallowe'en, 166 


Gaudies, 224 


Halse, 197 


Gaunt, John of, 145 


Hampshire, 27, 52, 202 


Gavelkind, 213 


Hampstead, 163 


Gawthorpe, 109 


Handball, 66 


Geddingham, 240 


Harcake, 166 


Geese-dancers, 14 


Hare-hunting, 86 


Geese, giving of, 158 


Hare-scrambling, 83 


Giggleswick, 278 


Harlequinade, 35 


Gillingham, 234 


Harlington, 278 


338 



Index 



Haro, Clameur de, 207 

Harvest customs, 149 

Harvington, 29 

Hats, burning, 200 

Hats in Parliament, 270 

Hawick custom, 103 

Ha worth, 138 

Haxey Hood, 50 

Headington, 161 

Heaving, 90 

Helston, 58, ill 

Hemswell, 109 

Hen, threshing the, 63 

Heriots, 215 

Hertfordshire, 73, 155, 234 

Hessle, 233 

Heston, 213 

Hey wood, 130 

High Roding, 55 

High Town, Scilly, 105 

Hiring fairs, 247 

Hobby ship, 103 

Hockney Day, 91 

Hock-tide, 90 

Hogmanay, 44 

Holderness, 197 

Holy Rood Day, 247 

Hoodening, 27 ; horse, 27 ; bull, 

28 

Hooset, 178 
Horn-blowing, 155 
Horn-dance, 139 
Hornsea, 25 
Horspeth Church, 24 
Hot cross buns, 72 
Hoton, Manor of, 301 
Houghton-le-Spring, 174 
Houseling cloth, 283 
Hull, 210 

Hungerford, 90, 144 
Huntingdon, 227 
Huntingdonshire, 48 
Hurling-matches, 57 
Hussars, 7th, 291 ; 8th, 292 ; 

loth, 287; I4th, 292; 1 5th, 

293 



INN-HOLDERS' Company, 225 



Inniskilling Fusiliers, 297 
Inkerman Day, 290 
Ireland, 30, 129, 144, 183 
Islington, 213 
Islip, 54 

JACK in the Green, 97, 99 
Jacobite custom, 308 
Judas Iscariot, flogging, 76 

KEMPTON, 71 

Kennet Valley custom, 128 

Kent, 27, 83, 194, 213, 252 

Kern baby, 150, 159 

Kern supper, 150 

Keys of Tower of London, 287 

Kidderminster, 238 

Kingsrigg, 255 

Kingscote, 28 

Kingston Russell, 301 

Kirkby Stephen, 236 

Kirkham, 240 

Kirk Leatham, 234 

Kirton-on-Lindsay, 22, 232, 233 

Kissing, 197 

Kissing bunch, 18 

Knack, 152 

Knightlow, 214 

Knill's bequest, 284 

Knutsford, 194 

LA BARR, 303 

Lambeth, 213 

Lammas Day, 149 

Lancashire, 37, 69, 80, 105, 130, 

165, 167, 199, 205 
Lancashire Regiment, 294 
Lancers, I2th, custom, 287 
Langwathby Rounds, 180 
Leeds, 15 

Legal customs, 206 
Leicester, 86, 146 
Leicester, St. Mary's Parish, 

116 
Leicestershire, 51, 54, 69, 106, 

138 

Leigh, 22 
Leighford, 140 



339 



Index 



Leinster Regiment, 294 

Lent, 277 

Lenten customs, 59 

Lichfield custom, 117 

Lincolnshire, 29, 49, 247 

Lion sermon, 282 

London, 50, 75, 119, 220, 262, 
266, 279 ; St. Clement Dane's 
Church, 168; St. James's 
Church, Aldgate, 140; St. 
Leonard's Church, Shore- 
ditch, 140 

Long Rope Day, 74 

Lord Mayor's show, 220 

Love feasts, 279 

MADRON Well, 183 
Magdalen College custom, 96 
Maiden, the, 151 
Maid-servants, bequest for, 281 
Maidstone, 233 
Man, Isle of, 30, 44, 154, 207, 

300 

Manchester, 20 
Maplescaump, 304 
Marbles on Good Friday, 74 
Market Bosworth, 171 
Market Drayton, 203, 244 
Market Overton, 54 
Marlborough, 116 
Marlborough, Duke of, 300 
Marriage customs, 190 
Marrow bones, 172 
Martinsell, 70 
Marylebone, 164 
Maundy gifts, 72 
Maundy Thursday, 257 
May Day customs, 95, 144 
May Day, revival of, no 
Mayo, 20 1 

Mayoress' chain, 230 
Maypole, 188 

Maypoles still standing, 108 
Meadow-mowing, 148 
Mell sheaf, 150 
Mell supper, 150 
Mercers' Company pageant, 221 
Mere Down, 213 



Michaelmas, 158 

Midsummer Eve, 141 

Midsummer Day, 207 

Mince-pies, 19 

Minehead, 103, 194 

Minster (Kent), 238 

Mischief Night, 104 

Mistletoe, 17, 1 8 

Mock mayors, 246 

Modbury, 210 

Modern customs, 307 

Molly Grime, washing of, 280 

Montem, 89 

Mop fairs, 247 

Morecambe, 130 

Morley, 60 

Morning dew, 103 

Morpeth, 236 

Morris dancers, 129, 130 ; melo- 
dies of, 327-333 

Mothering Sunday, 67 

Mouldshaugh, 255 

Mumming, 9 ; play, plot of, 10, 
310 

Mumping, 25 

Municipal customs, 226 

NAVENBY, 233 

Needle and thread at Queen's 

College, Oxford, 41 
Neville's Cross, 122 
Newbury, 246 

Newcastle, 183, 209, 210, 236 
Newington by Sittingbourne, 26 
Newport (Isle of Wight), 236 
Newport (Monmouthshire), 236 
Newport (Shropshire), 14 
New Year, 38; at Edinburgh 

Tron Church, 38 ; cards, 39 ; 

gifts, 40 ; midnight services, 

41 ; at Skipsea, 42 
Nickanan night, 67 
Northallerton, 181 
Northampton, 108, 121 
Northern Grammar School, 88 
Northrepps, 57 
Northumberland, 70, 80, 150, 

159 



340 



Index 



Northumberland Fusiliers, 294 
Northwich, 28 
Norton, 22 
Norwich, 64, 302 
Nottinghamshire, 43, 70, 120 

OAK and Nettle Day, 120 

Oak Apple Day, 120, 233 

Oldham, 43, 104, 130, 131, 165 

Onion fair, 247 

Orange blossoms, 190 

Orchard customs, 46 

Orwell, 108 

Oundle, 26 

Oxford, 96, 116, 117, 165, 224, 
263 ; Christ Church, 240 ; 
Jesus College, 77 ; Magdalen 
College, 95 ; Queen's College, 
22, 42 ; St. Mary's Parish, 117 

Oxfordshire, 237 

"Oyes," 249 

Oyster feast, 226 

PACE eggs, 78 

Pack Monday fair, 245 

Padiham, 203 

Padstow, 1 06, 172 

Pagan customs, 4 

Palm Sunday, 70, 282 

Pancake bell, 60, 233 

Pancakes, 60-62, 283 

Pantomime, 34 

Parliament, opening of, 269 

Parliamentary customs, 267 

Passing bell, 20, 201, 239 

Passion Sunday, 69 

Paul Pitcher Day, 53 

Peers, introduction of, 274 

Pembrokeshire, 203 

Penrith, 236 

Penzance, 105, 171, 183 

Pershore, 238 

Picrous day, 29 

Piddle Hinton, 277 

Pies, in Cornwall, 17 ; mince, 

19; fig, 68; pudding, 83; 

hare, 83 
Pie-powder, court of, 209 



Pillory, 251 

Pinwells, 183 

Plays, mumming, 10, 310; 

Plough Monday, 48 ; Easter, 

81 

Ploughing custom, 255 
Plough Monday, 47 
Plum-pudding, 19 
Plums, 277 
Pole, Manor of, 303 
Polebrooke, 26, 109 
Polperro custom, 106 
Pontypridd, 142 
Pop ladies, 46 
Preston, 129, 228 
Preston Brockhurst, 109 
Preston Park, 80 
Primrose Day, 307 
Privileges, curious, 299 
Pudding, plum, 19 
Pudding-bell, 234 
Pudding-pies, 83 
Purley, 60 

QUAALTAGH, 44 

Queensbury, 131 

RABBIT custom, 158 
Radnorshire, 68 
Raffling for Bibles, 253 
Rag well, 183 

Railway-smiths' custom, 170 
Rat by, 144 
Reading, 281, 302 
Redmire, 109 
Redruth, 143 

Resurrection, feast of the, 78 
Rice-throwing, 191 
Richmond, 166 
Ring, wedding, 193 
Ripon, 236 
Rochdale, 130 
Rockland, 245 
Rogation tide, 115 
Rossendale, 68 
Roundway Hill, 71 
Royal assent to Bills, 271 
Royal births, 266 



341 



Inde, 



Royal Oak Day, 120, 186 
Royal Scots Greys, 291 
Royal Scots Regiment, 288 
Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 289 
Rush-bearing, 131, 138 
Rye, 164 

SADDLEWORTH, 138 

St. Agnes Bickaw, 143 

St. Albans, 46 

St. Alkmund's, 188 

St. Anne's Day, 246 

St. Bartholomew, 131 

St. Bartholomew's Church cus- 
tom, 75 

St. Clement's Day, 168 

St. Colomb, 58 

St. Constantine, 76 

St. Crispin's Day, 159 

St. Cross, Hospital of, 285 

St. David's Day, 76, 289 

St. George, pageant of, 9 

St. George's Day, 294 

St. Gregory's Day, 278 

St. Ives, 57, 171, 252, 284 

St. James's Palace, 50 

St. Just, 200 

St. Katherine Cree Church, 
282 

St. Mark's feast, 89 

St. Mary's, Leicester, 116 

St. Mary Cray, no 

St. Mary Woolnoth Church, 89 

St. Oswald's Day, 133 

St. Paul's, Bedford, 233 

St. Paul's Day, 53 

St. Peter's Day, 133, 138 

St. Roche's Well, 183 

St. Roch's Day, 149 

St. Sepulchre's Church, 280 

St. Stephen's Day, 31-33 

St. Thomas Day, 25 

St. Valentine's Day, 53-57 

Saltash custom, 104 

Salt cellar, 225 

Sandhurst, 234 

Sandin fee court, 92 

Sandwich, 235 



Santer, 29 

Scarborough, 159 

School customs, 87 

Scotland, 151, 152, 155, 237, 239 

Scots Greys, 291 

Scrambling for bread and cheese, 

278 

Seamen's charity, 279 
Searching the House, 268 
Sedgefield, 64 
Seighford, 140 
Selkirk custom, 118 
Sellack and King's Capel, 282 
Selsby, 68 

Serjeanty, Grand, 299 
Sermons, 282 
Sharleton, 204 
Shellfish, gathering, 76 
Sherborne, 245 
Sherburn, 29 
Shitsack Day, 1 20 
Shoes, throwing, 193 
Sholey, 303 
Shooting the bride, 20 1 
Shrewsbury, 34, 166 
Shrivenham, 301 
Shropshire, 67, 90, 167, 168, 

201, 218 

Shrove Tuesday, 59 
Shroving, 60 
Silbury Hill, 71 
Simnel Sunday, 69 
Sin-eater, 202 
Skimmenton riding, 178 
Skinners' Company, 224 
Skipping on Good Friday, 74 
Skipsea, 42 
Skip-skop night, 172 
Slaves, redemption of, 280 
Somerset, 197, 239 
Soul bell, 201, 239 
Souling, 167 
South Pool, 280 
Southwark, 244 
Speaker, installation of, 272 
Spelsbury custom, 101 
Spur peal, 196, 232 
Spy Wednesday, 72 



342 



Index 



Staffordshire, 14, 26, 139, 168, 
Stang, riding the, 180 
Stockton, 278 
Stoke Courcy, 194 
Stoke Gabriel, 12 
Stoneyhurst, 52 
Stoulton, 26, 69 
Stourbridge, 244 
Stratford on Avon, 196, 247 
Strathfieldsaye, 300 
Straw boys, 201 
Stuart kings, 308 
Sturbridge fair, 209 
Suffolk, 51, 56, 118, 153 
Suffolk Regiment, 294 
Superstitions, 6 
Surrey, 47, 156 
Sussex, 15, 74, 169, 215 
Swalcliffe, 234 
Swineshead, 232 

TADCASTER, 29 

Tadmarton, 234 

Taking Day, 197 

Tat worth, 243 

Tennor Church, 20 

Tenures, curious, 300 

Thornton, 131 

Thump, the, 131 

Tibenham, 234 

Tides, 131 

Tipteerers, 15 

Tissington, 184 

Toddington, 233 

Tolls, 210 

Tolsey Court, 210 

Tommying, 26 

Torquay, 119 

Tower of London keys, 287 

Town and Gown rows, 165 

Tree, Christmas, 19 

Tregonan Hill, 143 

Truro, 58 

Turvey, 233 

Tutti men, 91 

Twelfth Night, 46 

Tynwald Hill, 208 

Ty thing men, 91 



239 VALENTINES, 54 

Veal on Mothering Sunday, 69 
Vessel bones, 15 
Veil, bride's, 193 
Vienna, 258 
Vintners' Company, 22 

WAKE Sunday, 130, 139 

Wakes, 130 

Waking bees, 205 

Waking servants, 241 

Wales, 32, 63, 71, 79, 90, 141, 

183, 200, 202 
Walmer, 27 
Walsingham, 188 
Waltham on the Wolds, 238 
Warcop, 138 
Ware farm, 56 
Warton, 243 
Warwickshire, 90 
Washing of feet, 257 
Wassailing, 42, 46 
Wassailing bowl, 28 
Watford custom, 107 
Weavers' Company, 278 
Wedding ring, 193 
Welford, 109 
Well-dressing, 184 
Wellington, 167 
Wellington, Duke of, 300 
Wellow, 1 08 
Wells, 22, 182 
Welsh Fusiliers, 289 
Wesley box, 16 
Westbere, 278 
Westbury, 281 
West Houghton, 131, 232 
Westminster, 263 
Westminster School, tossing 

pancake at, 62 
Westmoreland, 196 
Wheat, funeral, 205 
Wheatley custom, 102 
Whichnor, Manor of, 305 
Whitechurch Canonicorum, 180 
White Thursday, 29 
Whitsuntide, 123 
Whitworth, 138 

343 



Index 



Wilmslow, 80 

Wiltshire, 66, 70, 71, 120, 178 
Wiltshire Regiment, 287 
Winchester, 210, 236, 285 
Wiping shoes, 252 
Wirksworth, 183 
Wishford custom, 12 1 
Wishing wells, 188 
Witch's obelisk, 253 
Withernsea, 254 
Witney, 100, 278 
Wokingham, 233, 279 
Woodchester, 22 
Woodstock, 234 
Woolsack, origin of, 275 
Worcestershire, 16, 33, 51, 69, 73 
Worksop Manor, privileges of, 
262 



Wotton-under-Edge, 68 

Wren box, 32 

Wren, stoning the, 30 ; hunting 

the, 31 

Wyfold Court, 306 
Wyverton Hall, 49 



YAPTAM, 278 

Yarmouth, 210, 303 

Yarmouth (Isle of Wight), 43 

York, 230 

Yorkshire, 13, 15, 17, 49, 52, 

70, 79, 89, 150, 199, 202, 204, 

240, 247 

Yorkshire Regiment, 294 
Youlgrave, 188 
Yule, 30 ; log, 9 ; doos, 33 



THE END 



Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & Co 
Edinburgh and London. 



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Morrison (Arthur). THE HOLE IN 
THE WALL. 

Nesblt (E.). THE RED HOUSE. 

Norris (W. E.). HIS GRACE. 
GILES INGILBY. 
THE CREDIT OF THE COUNTY. 
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WHEN VALMOND CAME TO PONTIAC. 
THE TRAIL OF THE SWORD. 

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OF A THRONE. 
I CROWN THEE KING. 

Phillpotts (Eden). THE HUMAN BOY. 
CHILDREN OF THE MIST. 
THE POACHER'S WIFE. 
THE RIVER. 



Couch) - THE 



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LOST PROPERTY. 

GEORGE and THE GENERAL, 



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A MARRIAGE AT SEA. 
MY DANISH SWEETHEART. 
HIS ISLAND PRINCESS. 

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MAN. 

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MR. SPONGE'S SPORTING TOUR. 

ASK MAMMA. 

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COUSINS. 

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CAPTAIN FORTUNE. 

Weekes (A. B.). PRISONERS OF WAR. 

Wells (H. G.). THE SEA LADY. 

White (Percy). A PASSIONATE PIL- 
GRIM. 












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